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Full text of "Popular Mechanics 2009-12"

20MACGYVER TIPS AUTO AW 

THE TRUTH ABOUT mGREEN JOBS 



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H 1 M B ■■ H Science Automotive Technology Home Outdoors 

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Popular Mechanics.com 

| AUTOMOTIVE SCIENCE t 
X I TECHNOLOGY + HOME + 
^^J HOW-TO CENTRAL VIDEO 



DECEMBER 



Test Drives 




When a car, truck or motorcycle is production- 
ready, PM's auto editors are there first. Our 
editors and professional drivers take you behind 
the wheel, testing handling, acceleration and the 
high-tech innovations in new vehicles long before 
you can buy them. Whether we're roaring through 
laps on the race track, canyon-carving or hypermil- 
ing on the highway, we'll tell you everything the 
automakers did right— and what they got wrong. 
popularmechanics.com/automotive 



EEg3B3333Ea 

If there's an electric vehicle on the road— whether 
two-, three- or four-wheeled— chances are we've 
driven it. The prototype plug-in Toyota Prius, the 
Ford Fusion Hybrid, the 100-mpg electric Hummer 
and plenty more high-tech vehicles have faced our 
road tests. Check back for more on how the latest 
electric and hybrid electric vehicles hold up in 
real-world driving, popularmechanics.com/phev 



LONG-TERM RELIABILITY 



Sometimes even a 300-mile drive isn't enough to 
reveal every detail on a new car or truck. That's 
why PM's auto editors have a fleet of vehicles that 
we submit to year-long reliability tests. Check in for 
weekly comments and full quarterly updates. 
popularmechanics.com/longtermtestcars 




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Popular Mechanics 

James B . Meigs 

Editor-in-Chief 



Executive Editor David Dunbar 
Design Director Michael Lawton 

EDITORIAL 

Editor, Automotive Ben Stewart 

Senior Editor, Automotive Mike Allen 

Senior Editor, Home Roy Berendsohn 

Senior Editor, Science Jennifer BogO 

Senior Editor, Technology Glenn Derene 

Detroit Editor Larry Webster 

Associate Editors Joe Pappalardo, 

Seth Porges, Harry Sawyers 

Research Director David Cohen 

Assistant Editor Erin McCarthy 

Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief Allie Haake 

Contributing Editors: 

Jim Gorman, Chris Grundy, Ben Hewitt, 

Carl Hoffman, Alex Hutchinson, Joel Johnson, 

Tom Jones, S.E. Kramer, Jay Leno, 

Fred Mackerodt, The MythBusters 

(Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage), Joe Oldham, 

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Noah Shachtman, 

Erik Sofge, Kalee Thompson, Joseph Truini, 

James Vlahos, Logan Ward, Jeff Wise 



Deputy Editor Jerry Beilinson 
Managing Editor Michael S. Cain 

ART 

Senior Art Director Peter Herbert 

Associate Art Director Stravinski Pierre 

PHOTOGRAPHY 

Director of Photography Allyson Torrisi 

Associate Photo Editor Michele Ervin 

PRODUCTION 

Assistant Managing Editor Emily MasamitSU 

Copy Editor Robin Tribble 

IMAGING 

Digital imaging Specialist Anthony Verducci 

POPULARMECHANICS.COM 

Online Director Angela Diegel 
Online Editor Tyghe Trimble 
PROJECT ASSISTANTS 
Haiyen Chin, Alyson Sheppard 
INTERN 
Shelby Neblett 

Contributing Photographers & Illustrators: 
Burcu Avsar, Tim Bower, Gordon Chapman/ 
Studio Catastrophic FX, Brad DeCecco, Dogo, 
Chad Hunt, Scott Jones, Ed Keating, Axel de Roy, 
Dan Saelinger, Gabriel Silveira, Sinelab, 
Art Streiber, Transluszent, Dan Winters 



SUBSCRIPTIONS 

subscribe .popularmechanics.com 



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Publisher 

Associate Publisher Jane Wladar General Manager Bruce A. Mitnick 
Executive Marketing Director Mike Kresch 



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PUBLISHED BY THE HEARST CORPORATION 

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Vice Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Chairman 

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President Executive Vice President, Executive Vice President 

Chief Marketing Officer & General Manager 

& Group Publishing Director 

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ho\A/ TTI E-Mail popularmechanics&hearstcom. Mail Popular Mechanics, 300 W. 57th St., 

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TGdCn US daytime phone number. Letters may be edited. Subscription Questions For customer 
service, change of address and subscription orders, log on to service.popularmechanics.com, 
or write to Customer Service Department, Popular Mechanics, P.O. Box 7186, Red Oak, IA 
51591-0186. Back Issues Call 800-925-0485, or write to Hearst Single Copy Sales, P.O. 
Box 7763, Red Oak, IA 51591-0186. Reprints Call 800-659-9878. 



EDITORIAL 
BOARD OF 
ADVISERS 

POPULAR MECHANICS is 

grateful to these scientists, 
innovators and leaders, who 
help ensure we cover the 
most important stories in 
the most authoritative way. 

BUZZ ALDRIN 

Apollo 11 astronaut; 
colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) 

SHAWN CARLSON 

Executive director of 
the Society for 
Amateur Scientists; 
MacArthur Fellow 

SAUL GRIFFITH 

Chief scientist, Other Lab; 
MacArthur Fellow 
THOMAS D. JONES 

Space shuttle astronaut; 
author of Sky Walking 

DR. KEN KAMLER 

Surgeon; author of 
Surviving the Extremes 

GAVIN A. SCHMIDT 

Climate modeler, 
NASAGoddard Institute 
for Space Studies 

AMY B. SMITH 

MIT instructor; leader in 
appropriate technology 
movement 

DANIEL H. WILSON 

Roboticist; author of The 
Mad Scientist Hall of Fame 

WM. A. WULF 

President, National Academy 
of Engineering 



WHAT 

THEY'RE 

DOING 




* DAVID E. COLE 

Chairman, Center for 
Automotive Research 
Cole is working to 
encourage the adoption of 
renewable portfolio 
standards, which commit 
states to supply customers 
with increased electrical 
power from renewable 
sources in coming years. 
The automotive-trend 
expert also helped 
organize The Business of 
Plugging In, a conference 
exploring the political and 
economic issues involved in 
promoting plug-in electric 
vehicles on a large scale. 



4 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 






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LETTERS 



Beyond Survival 

The October "Self-Reliance 
Issue" was simply excellent. The 
stories and messages are a 
wake-up call for all of us to 
improve our skills and become 
more self-sufficient— whether in 
building a shelter, growing food, 
surviving natural disasters or 
simply doing projects around 
the home. I also thought your 
emphasis on coordinating 
efforts noteworthy. Teamwork 
is of paramount importance if 
we are to triumph over the 
challenges of our modern world. 

BOB KARD 

SAN DIEGO, CA 

Your story "The Electric Cold- 
Beer Gadget Test" proves just 
how materialistic we are as 
a society— in a crisis situa- 
tion, most thoughts would be 
toward finding a way to main- 
tain creature comforts and not 
on ways to survive. "But, Dad, 
I'm bored!" Oh? Well, kick up 
that generator and waste a 
limited resource like gas. 
This article should not have 
been in this issue. Survival is 
not about comforts, it's about 
maintaining life. 

SCOTT RANDALL 

IRON RIVER, Ml 



m ,y, fi 



10/09 



■ 

Readers 

responded to 

self-reliance 

themes— from 

fixing old machines 

to surviving natural 

disasters. 



I am a long-time subscriber 
to Popular Mechanics, but I 
have never before read your 
magazine from cover to cover 
with as much interest as I did 
the October issue, "Beyond 
Survival." I reside in California 
and have an earthquake shed 
filled with supplies, including a 
tent, water, sleeping bags and 
a portable radio. Your survival 
issue will be added to my kit. 
Thank you from a dedicated 
PM reader. 

JIM FREEMAN 

RICHMOND, CA 

Extraordinary Skills 

I recently read "The Rules of 
Survival" and was inspired 
by all the stories of ordinary 
people surviving incredible 
disasters. One, however, hit 
particularly close to home: I 
spent many weekends at the 
Little Sioux Scout Ranch in 
Iowa, where a troop survived 
a tornado in 2008. As an 
adolescent, I practiced many 
of the skills that those scouts 



had to call upon after the 
disaster. The boys are a testa- 
ment to a program that has 
withstood the test of time in 
preparing ordinary boys to be 
extraordinary men under the 
most extreme circumstances. 

CHRIS KOSLOSKY 

TOPEKA, KS 

Forget the Landfill 

I very much enjoyed your 
story "The Soul of an Old 
Machine" about the movement 
to repair and fix rather than 
discard products. I too enjoy 
the challenge of fixing 
something, even if just for the 
satisfaction of accomplishing 
the task. Recently I helped a 
neighbor diagnose a problem 
with his 30-year-old wood 
splitter. The cost of replacing 
the worn piston seals was just 
$4 plus some replacement 
hydraulic fluid. Bottom line: 
We saved $1500 and a lot of 
space in the landfill. 

BILL LAMMERS 

OCALA, FL 



HREM 



an 



In bookstores this month: 

Extreme Fear: The Science of 
Your Mind in Danger, by PM 
contributing editor Jeff Wise. 
Based on reporting that 
originally appeared in PM, 
real-life stories of death 
and survival enliven this 
exploration of the brain's 
fear response. 



what 

to® 



Write to Us Include your full name, address and phone number, even if 
you correspond by e-mail. Send e-mail to popularmechanics@hearst.com. 
All letters are subject to editing for length, style and format. 
Subscribe Please go to subscribe.popularmechanics.com. 



6 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 









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72 Anatomy of 
a Plane Crash 

Ajet flying from Rio de 
Janeiro to Paris vanishes 
without a trace. How can 
investigators prevent a 
similar tragedy if the cause 
remains unknown? 
PM looks for answers. 

BY JEFF WISE 



80 So You Want to 
Buy a Netbook 

This 2-pound wonder com- 
bines a desktop computer's 
functionality with a laptop's 
take-along convenience— at 
a fraction of the price. We 
dissect features to help you 
find the right mini machine. 
BY SETH PORGES 




82 Run Silent, 
Run Sleek 

With its unprecedented 
speed and maneuverability, 
the Super Falcon submarine 
promises to reveal under- 
water worlds to scientists 
and amateur explorers alike. 

BYMARKSCHROPE 



88 The Guerrilla 
Mechanic 

Our in-house MacGyver, auto 
editor Mike Allen, shares his 
20 favorite quick-fix secrets, 
from making a fuel injector 
out of a Bic pen to a jury- 
rigged fencepost remover. 

BY MIKE ALLEN 




f America's petroleum 
heartland, Texas isn't 
known for being environ- 
mentally sensitive. But 
I its oil-boom, get-'er-done 
attitude could make clean 
energy take off. 

BY JENNIFER BOGO 



Green jobs have become 
known as the fix-it-now 
Band-Aid for some big eco- 
nomic quandaries. But will 
Earth-friendly careers stick 
around long enough to 
make a lasting impact? 

BYJOERHASLER 



ON THE COVER 



Photo illustration of an Airbus 330 commercial passenger airline. Original photograph by Doug Ball. 



PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON FULFORD 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM I DECEMBER 2009 9 




Popular Mechanics 

PM DEPARTMENTS 



do it yourself 



- HOME 










105 


110 


Bantamweight 


Homeowners 


Slugfest 


Clinic 


PM puts some 


Using the right 


serious pressure on 


hardware to 


seven 12-volt 


maximize the hang 


lithium-ion drills 


time of heavy wall 


in a test to crown 


art. PAiisrThe 


the best portable 


proper way to install 


powerhouse. 


a snow fence; 


— f (jgl 


LEED-certified 


green remodeling. 




* AUTO 




115 Saturday 


118 Car Clinic 


Mechanic 


Buyer beware- 


Own a classic car? 


cheap, low-quality 


Keep its engine 


offshore brake 


purring even 


discs. Plus: Ford's 


longer by 


Sync system 


mastering a pair 


deciphers Check 


of age-old arts: 


Engine lights; 


replacing the 


dealing with a gaso- 


ignition points and 


line/diesel mix-up 


setting the timing. 


at the pump. 




x TECH 





125 Digital 
Sketchoook 



128 Digital 
Clinic 




Can cellphones 
handle extreme 
cold? We lock six 
models in a subzero 
chamber and dip 
them in liquid 
nitrogen to find 
out. Plus: The easy 
way to Auto-Tune. 



LISTED ON THE COVER: 

88 MacGyverTips /// 53 
Auto Awards /// 98 Truth 
About Green Jobs /// 72 
Anatomy of a Plane Crash 
/// 31 25 Great Gadgets /// 
105 Drill Driver Showdown 



TECH WATCH 



13 Superman sVelcro 

The toughest hook-and-loop 
material on earth. Plus: NASA 
figures out how to levitate 
mice; can Bill Gates conquer 
hurricanes? 



UPGRADE 



31 2010 Wish List 

Two dozen must-have toys, 
tools and tech items. Plus: 
Wireless sound systems 
endure our Abusive Lab Test; 
sci-fi-worthy tech that you 
can buy today. 



x COLUMNS 



70 The New 
Machine Age 

Some experts say comput- 
ers will soon surpass the 
intelligence of the human 
brain. Glenn Harlan Reynolds 
explores the implications. 



IN EVERY ISSUE 



How to Reach Us 4 / Letters 6 / This Is My Job 136 



10 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




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NEWS + TRENDS + BREAKTHROUGHS 




TechWatch 



2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010* 

*2010 number projected by 
U.S. Department of Energy 



BAILOUT FOR BIODIESEL 



America's production of biodiesel, fuel derived 
from plants and animal fats instead of petroleum, 
is reeling from changes in the market. Soy and 
animal-fat prices have risen, oil prices have fallen, and the 
European Union has levied tariffs on U.S.-made biodiesel. 
These forces have helped shutter dozens of biodiesel 
plants, including those owned by GreenHunter Energy, the 
nation's largest operator. The Environmental Protection 
Agency mandates that a growing percentage of alternative 
energy options be blended into conventional vehicle fuel, 
but biodiesel production may fall short of the law 's 2010 
targets. Production is expected to rise in 2011, thanks 
partly to federal grants and loan guarantees. 



HOT TIMES IN 
THE CITY 

+ It's well-known 
that cities are an 
average of 6 
degrees Fahrenheit 
warmer than the 
surrounding 
countryside— and 
the difference can 
be as high as 22 F 
But a team of 
European 
scientists wanted 
to know how 
street width, green 
spaces and air 
pollution affect 
temperature. 
The scientists 
gathered radiation 
and temperature 
data from sensors 
on the ground, 
in airplanes 
and on NASA 
satellites to 
measure 
differences 
between Athens 
and its suburbs. 
The team is now 
examining the data 
for trends; 
European 
emergency 
planners will use 
the findings to 
better position 
ambulances during 
deadly heat waves. 



STEAMY 
SUBMARINE 
CHAT LINE 

+ Researchers at 
the Naval Research 
Laboratory have 
figured out how to 
focus laser beams 
to produce a 



controlled burst of 
underwater sound. 
Using a mix of 
lasers that emit 
slightly varying 
frequencies of 
light, the process 
superheats a small 
area of water, 



producing a small 
explosion of steam 
and a 220-decibel 
sound pulse. A 
sequence of these 
flashes turns 
the water itself 
into a speaker. 
Within the next 



year, the Navy will 
attempt longer- 
distance experi- 
ments that could 
enable one-way 
communication 
from aircraft 
to submerged 
submarines. 




Superman's 



r elcro 







#\>- 
P M 



German engineers have 
developed an extreme hook- 
and-loop fastener ma de of 
soring-steel allov that f 



support loads of 50 pounds per 
square inch 



and endure tem- 
)f nearly 1500 F 
Despite this exceptional 
toughness— typical Velcro can 
withstand about 8 pounds per 
square inch— the product, called 
Metaklett, can still be opened 
and closed by hand. Research- 
ers at the Technical University of 
Munich developed it for use in 
high-stress applications like 
cars, space systems and 
building facades. 




100 

unique 

mutations 

exist within 

each 

person's 

DNA 



A JOINT TEAM 
FROM ENGLAND 

AND CHINA 

SEQUENCED THE 

Y CHROMOSOME 

OF TWO MEN 
WHO WERE SEPA- 
RATED BY 13 
GENERATIONS 
AND COUNTED 
THE GENETIC 
DIFFERENCES. 
MOST OF THESE 
MUTATIONS HAVE 
NO INFLUENCE ON 
APPEARANCE OR 

HEALTH, BUT 

SOME CAN CAUSE 

DISEASES. 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 13 



Charge 'Er Up 

THE WORLD'S MOST 
AMBITIOUS ELECTRIC CAR 
COMPANY WILL RELY ON 
ROBOTIC STATION ATTEND 



BY MICHAEL BELFIORE 



It takes more than just a vehicle to convince 
consumers to adopt electric cars. Recharging their 
batteries has to be as easy as filling up a tank of gas. 
Israel-born entrepreneur Shai Agassi, the founder of the 
startup company Better Place, is relying on robotic 
quick-change stations to swap out depleted batteries for 
fresh ones in the electric cars he is servicing. Drivers will 
enter a station when their battery pack gets low and have 
the battery replaced faster than it would take to refill a 
gasoline tank. "When electric cars are more affordable and convenient than 
gas cars, consumer adoption will tip the market," Agassi says. Better Place 
proposes building a network of curbside charging stations where owners can 
top off their vehicle batteries. Agassi's idea generated $300 million in venture 
capital and sparked international interest: Cities in Israel and Denmark hope 
to have the first robotic change stations running in 2011, and the company 
aspires to expand operations to Australia, Canada, Hawaii and California in 
2012. In late September, Better Place signed a deal with Renault-Nissan to 
put 100,000 electric vehicles on the road in Israel and Denmark by 2016. 



red by 
lithium-ion cells 
like those in 
laptop computers, 
mounts flush with 
the bottom of the 
car. Better Place 
will own the 
batteries along 
with the 

infrastructure for 
servicing them. 



Jke electric cars 
currently on the 
market, the Better 
Place model has 
an electric plug so 
that drivers can 
top off at curbside 
charging stations. 




GPS-enabled 
software in the 
car alerts drivers 
when they're 
running low on 
battery power 
and directs them 
to the nearest 
quick-change 
station along 
their route. The 
software could 
also interface 
with future power- 
monitoring 
technology to 
feed power from 
parked cars 
back into the 
electrical grid. 





■^J i 



The driver swipes a card to activate the system, then drives into the change 
station. A robot quickly releases the battery pack from the undercarriage and 
exchanges it for a new one. Time from drive-in to drive-out: 1 minute 30 seconds. 




14 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



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nuclear warheads 


before anyone 


In response, the 


single command. 




THE AIR FORCE'S 


onto a B-52 


noticed. The top 


Pentagon decided 


The Global Strike 


H 


NUCLEAR RESET 


bomber, believing 


brass relieved four 


in October 2008 to 


Command takes 


^B 


^m 


them to be 


officers of their 


consolidate 


charge of the 




-> Sometimes a 


unarmed cruise 


commands and 


responsibility for 


ICBMs this month 




single bad day can 


missiles. The nukes 


decertified 65 


its fleet of 


in Barksdale, but 


* 


reshape an entire 


were missing for 


airmen from handling 


nuclear-capable 


most of the 


Cj 


military service. The 


36 hours, flying 


nuclear weapons, 


bombers and 


nuclear-capable 


^ 


U.S. Air Force was 


from Mi not Air 


but the Air Force's 


land-based 


B-2 and B-52 




humiliated in late 


Force Base in 


post-Cold War 


intercontinental 


bombers will trans 


^ 


2007 when 


North Dakota to 


neglect of its 


ballistic missile 


fer to the new 


fe 


aircrews unwittingly 


Barksdale Air Force 


nuclear missions 


missions under the 


command in 


* 
u 


loaded six live 


Base in Louisiana, 


had been exposed. 


watchful eye of a 


February. — J.R 


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^ 














The F-35's 
Deadeye 



AEROSPACE DESIGNERS GIVE THE 
JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER A SAPPHIRE- 
PANELED GEM OF AN AIMING 
SYSTEM. BY JOE PAPPALARDO 




v Aiming weapons from a 

stealth aircraft like the F-35 is 
not easy. Tine infrared sensors used 
to find targets in the air and on the 
ground need a 360-degree view, so 
they must hang outside the airframe. 
However, the shape of any exterior 
hardware produces a telltale 
signature on enemy radar, so 
Lockheed Martin engineers put the 
targeting optics in a multifaceted 
sapphire structurejutting out of the 
fuselage under the aircraft's nose. 
"The material is the same as you find 
in a supermarket checkout bar-code 
scanner," says Don Boiling, Lock- 
heed's business development 
manager for the electro-optical 
targeting system (EOTS). From the 
outside, the beveled shape of the 
damage-resistant panels will reflect 
radar in meaningless patterns, in the 
same way the airplane's other 
surfaces are shaped to defeat enemy 
tracking. Inside, a focal-plane array 
produces two kinds of infrared 
images: high-resolution images for 
targeting, and less distinct "search 
and track" images to follow distant 
objects of interest. For both applica- 
tions, EOTS engineers used midwave 
infrared frequencies that cleanly pass 
through the sapphire panels. The first 
flight of Air Force F-35s with the full 
load of mission-critical systems is 
scheduled to take off in late 2010. 



CRITICAL HARDWARE 



Diode-pumped laser 
finds the range of 
targets and desig- 
nates and guides 
smart weapons. 



FIBEROPTIC 



Connects the sensor 
to the airplane's 
central computer. 



360-DEGREE 



Passive sensors 
turn to capture 
thermal images of 
targets. 



Measures the 
reflected laser to 
gauge distance. 



SPOT TRACKER 



Allows airplane 
to see ground 
troops' or another 
aircraft's targeting 
, lasers. 



FAST-STEERING 



Corrects 
unwanted 
movement while 
tracking targets. 



16 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



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TO FIND ONESELF INSPIRED. 

Infintti believes it^ a journey that must be felt p not told. So 
they started by imagining "inspiration' 1 as a physical concept, 
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a iMoot-tall cinematic experience. 

Using state-of-the-art projections, Infiniti created a 2-hour 
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Here, the car is fully "realized" after a journey of prelections 
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Synched with a Bose* surround soundseape, the resulting 
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Elements in the virtual cat's M inspired journey" to a final vehicle included: (1) the life-size CAD model, (a) the 3D technician maneuvering projections to fit the model, 
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Seen behind the "virtual* infiniti M is a compilati 
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ALL-NEW INFINITI M 

Informed by the dynamic harmony of nature and the beauty of balanced movement, the Infiniti M proves that inspiration can 
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EXPERIENCE INSPIRED EMOTION BROUGHT TO LIFE 

A multimedia experience that truly brought the 59th annual Pebble Beach Concours d 'Elegance into the 21 st century, The Infiniti 
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designed to capture the Infiniti driving experience -one in which craftsmanship delivers not only motion, but emotion. 

Pictured here t$ one of the computer-generated CAD drawings of the Infiniti M used to "build" the car at the event Open here 
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INFINITI. 

Inspired Performance- 



INFINITI ESSENCE 

In addition to the "virtual" Infiniti M, guests at the event were also witness to the North American debut of the stunning Essence 
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Inspired by the simplicity and flow of a singte brushstroke, the Infiniti Essence sport coupe is positioned at the true cutting edge 
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< * 



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This experience was developed by The Apartment, a design agency focused on creating fully integrated, 
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■ 



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corpse decays by 


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types and 




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v 


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t to locate and identify 


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owner's name. 




NASA's Levitating Mice + Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion 
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The magnetic field is applied evenly to keep the mice hovering in place, and 
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22 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



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Bill Gates, 
Hurricane Hunter 

GEEKY IDEAS BECOME HOT 
COMMODITIES AT A RESEARCH 
^ SHOP OPERATED BY SOME OF THE 
O WORLD'S WEALTHIEST INVESTORS. 
h, BY BRIAN THEVENOT 



Bill Gates has dominated the software industry, become 

~^ one of the wealthiest men in the world and remade his 

image as a master philanthropist. But can he stop a hurricane? 
Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, is steering company funds 

to Intellectual Ventures, a private company that buys and 

licenses patents and inventions. Gates himself participates in 

the firm's brainstorm sessions. Next on the list: killing hurri- 
canes. Warm surface water fuels big storms, so Intellectual 

Ventures proposes to suppress them by dumping cool water 

from massive floating bowls of unspecified size, deployed by 

airplane in front of a storm's path. It would take a water 
surface temperature drop of 4.5 Fto diminish a hurricane's 
force, says Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science 
at MIT, and hundreds of bowls would have to be deployed over 
hundreds of miles. "I actually don't think it's feasible," says 
George Mellor, a Princeton professor who envisioned a similar 
system years ago. "But it's worth researching, and, hey, if Bill 
Gates is investing..." 



UP 

CONDUIT 

FOR COLD 

WATER 




INTELLECTUAL VENTURES Employees: 500-plus Funding: 
$5 billion in venture capital from investors (including Microsoft) 
Revenues: Company officials told a newspaper earlier this year it 
has made more than $1 billion in licensing fees since inception. 



i 



OTHER IDEAS 
FROM GATES'S 
IDEA FACTORY 



Mosquito Laser 
Defense 

-> Researchers at a 
recently opened 
Intellectual Ventures 
lab in Bellevue, 
Wash., are building 
the ultimate bug 
zapper. The 
"photonic fence" 
combats malaria by 
surrounding houses 
or villages with a 
perimeter guarded 
by lasers that shoot 
mosquitoes from 
the air. The 



computer-guided 
laser can track the 
flight of individual 
mosquitoes, and 
distinguish 
harmless males 
from biting females 
by measuring the 
frequency of their 
wing beat. Crucially, 
the laser beam is 
weak enough that 
humans can pass 
through the 
perimeter 
unharmed. The 
system has been 
successfully tested 
in the firm's labs. 

Super-Strength 
Semiconductors 

-> Intellectual 
Ventures recently 



HOW IT WORKS: THE VESSEL FILLS WITH WATER 
AVES SLAP OVER THE SIDES. THE PRESSURE 



HE WATER'S WEIGHT FORCES WATER DOW 
, WHERE THE DOWNWARD CURRENT TURNS 
INE. THAT TURBINE SUCKS COOL WATER 
. THE DEPTHS INTO THE TUB. 



purchased the 
entire patent 
portfolio of 
Transmeta, a 
trailblazing 
manufacturer of 
low-power 
microprocessors. 
Transmeta was 
purchased in 2009, 
but the company 
that bought it was 
only interested in 
microprocessors 
for video displays, 
and sold 140 other 
patents to 
Intellectual 
Ventures, "me 
technologies could 
lead to powerful, 
efficient computer 
chips to use in 
expendable remote 
sensors, medical 
devices inside 
human bodies and 
nano-scale 
manufacturing. 



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p^l^^^^^^^l 


| A FILM'S VISUAL EFFECTS 

^^^^■1 SEQUENCES CAN BE 

1 CRAFTED BY MORE THAN 100 

^■^ ARTISTS AND CAN TAKE 

V > MONTHS TO CREATE. 


■L- ^ «JW^= 


HERE ARE A FEW OF THE KEY 
STEPS IN THE PROCESS. 








Apocalypse How 



ROLAND EMMERICH GIVES 
>S ON HOW TO DESTROY Th 
)N FILM. BY ERIN MCCARTHY 



Roland Emmerich is no stranger to cinematic 
w disaster. The director froze New York City in The Day 
After Tomorrow and blew the White House to bits in 
Independence Day. So he wasn't sure about directing 2012, 
out Nov. 13. The movie is based on the idea that the end of 
the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, portends a global 
apocalypse. "When I realized how much disaster was 
involved I got a case of cold feet, because I've done that, 
you know?" he says. "So I said, 'Okay, I'm going to make this 
the mother of all disaster movies.'" 

More than 100 artists created 2012's 1300 visual 
effects (VFX) shots, including volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, 
floods— and a massive earthquake that rips California 
apart. In this 3-minute sequence, failed science-fiction 
writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) drives through Los 
Angeles as the city crumbles around him. In the past, 
Emmerich might have filmed on location and swapped in 
CG crumbling buildings, but that approach didn't make 
sense for 2012 because every edifice had to be destroyed. 
Instead, artists at Uncharted Territory built a 3D photoreal- 
istic version of several city blocks using 60,000 high- 
dynamic images as a reference. Then they made every 
mailbox, tree and building shake and crumble— and each 
item had to be researched to see how it would behave. 

As animators molded the virtual city, Emmerich was 
filming his actors in front of a blue screen. He put the actors 
on a "shaky floor," an 8000-square-foot steel platform on 
airbags. Special-effects coordinators jiggled the bags with 
pneumatic pumps to inspire authentic reactions from the 
actors. "It was the most complicated scene we created," 
Emmerich says. "And it's one of my favorites." 



Um^* ^ 



1. Live-Action 
Plate 

-> Emmerich filmed 
actors and a limo 
with a Panavision 
Genesis camera in 
front of a 750-foot- 
long, 42-foot-tall 
blue screen. 

2. Matchmove 

-> CG artists 
identify points in 
the plate that can 
be tracked over all 
frames of a shot. 
Using that informa- 
tion, software 
calculates the 
exact movement 
of the original 
live-action camera 
and re-creates that 
movement inside 
the computer. 

3. Scene 
Assembly 

-> When the 
elements of a 
scene are finished, 
the set is 
assembled in the 
computer; VFX 
artists do a test 
render to make 
sure all the 
elements work 
correctly. 

4. Final Shot 

-> Frame by frame, 
assets undergo 
render passes for 
light, shadows and 
more. The virtual 
assets and live 
elements are 
composited on the 
plate, giving the 
appearance of a 
single shot that 
has been 
photographed live. 



ON THE WEB > 



The shots above represent only a few steps of the visual effects 
process. For a gallery of 2012's VFX work from start to finish, plus 
an interview with director Roland Emmerich on the science behind 
the movie, visit popularmechanics.com/2012movie. 



26 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



Talk to your doctor. 

Adding ABILIFY 

to an antidepressant such as one of these* can help 
treat unresolved symptoms of depression. 



1 * 





Approximately 2 out of 3 people being treated for depression still have unresolved symptoms. 
Ask your doctor about the option of adding ABILIFY to your currant antidepressant. 

ABILIFY is FDA-approved to treat depression in adults when added to an antidepressant. 

*0 generic equivalents where available. 

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: 

Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis (eg, an inability to perform daily activities due to increased memory loss) 
taking ABILIFY have an increased risk of death or stroke. ABILIFY is not approved for treating these patients. 

Antidepressants can increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, teens, and young adults. Serious mental illnesses are 
themselves associated with an increase in the risk of suicide. When taking ABILIFY call your doctor right away if you have new 
or worsening depression symptoms, unusual changes in behavior, or thoughts of suicide. Patients and their caregivers should 
be especially observant within the first few months of treatment or after a change in dose. Approved only for adults 18 and over 
with depression, 

• Alert your doctor if you develop very high fever f rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, sweating, or 
increased heart rate and blood pressure, as these may be signs of a rare but potentially fatal 
condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NWIS) 

• If you develop abnormal or uncontrollable facial movements, notify your doctor, as these may 
be signs of tardive dyskinesia (TD), which could become permanent 

• If you have diabetes or have risk factors or symptoms of diabetes, your blood sugar should be 
monitored. High blood sugar has been reported with ABILIFY and medicines like it. ]n some cases, 
extreme high blood sugar can lead to coma or death 

• Other risks may include lightheadedness upon standing, decreases in white blood cells (which can be 
serious)., seizures, trouble swa ; owing, or impairment in judgment or motor skills. Until you know 
how ABILIFY affects you, you should not drive or operate machinery 

The common side effects in adults in clinicat trials (>10%) include nausea, vomiting, constipation, 
headache, dizziness, an inner sense of restlessness or need to move (akathisia), anxiety, and insomnia. 
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you're taking, since there are some risks for drug interactions. 
You should avoid alcohol while taking ABILIFY. 

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. 
Visitwww.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-108S. 

Please read the Important Information about ABILIFY on the adjacent page. 

K ! dxapro 1 - lescitaloprarn oxa-ate), Zoloft* {sertraline HOI). Prozac* (fluoxetine hydrochloride), Erftexor XF* (venlataxine HCI}, 
Paxil CR* (paroxetine HCB are trademarks of their resoective companies. 




ABILIFY 

(aripiprazole) 

2 mg,5 mg Tablet 

IF AN ANTIDEPRESSANT 
ALONE ISN'T ENOUGH. 

www.abiliTytreatnientcom 



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ABILIFY 

(aripiprazole) 

This summary af the Package Insert contains risk and safety 
inlormati-on for patients about ABIUFY This summary does not 
include air information a tout ABIUFY and is not meant to -ak& 
the place of discussions with your healthcare professional 
about your treatment Please read this important inform ation 
carefully before you start taking ABIUFY and discuss any 
questions about ABIUFY wiflt your heattftcare professional. 
Name 
AfllUFY® (o-BIL-l-(l) [Dripiprazok) {air-n-PIP-ra-mltl 

What is ABILIFY? 

ABIUFY (aripiprazale] is a prescription medicine used as an 
add-on treatment to antidepressants For Major Depressive 
Disorder in adults. 
What is depression? 

Depression is a common M serious medical condition. 
Symptoms may include sadness, loss of interest in activities 
you once enjoyed, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating or 
making decisions, feefings of wordlessness or excessive guiil, 
insomnia of excessive steep, a change in appetite causing 
weight loss or gain, or thoughts of death or suicide. These 
coold be depression symptoms if they interfere with daily life 
at tidhe, at work, Dr with friends and last most of the day, 
nearly every day for at least 2 weeks 
What is the most important information that I 
should know about antidepressant medicines, 
depression, and other serious mental 
illnesses? 

■ Antidepressam medicines may increase suicidal thoughts 
or actions in some children, teenagers, and young adults 

■ Depression and serious mental illnesses are the most 
important causes of suicidal thoughts and actions 

For more information, see the Prescribing Information and tne 
Medication Guide called Antidepressant Medicines, Depression 
antf Other Serious Mental illnesses, and Suicidal Thoughts or 
Actions, 

Who should NOT take ABILIFY? 
People who are allergic to ABILIFY or to any substance that is 
in it Allergic reactions have ranged from rash, hives and 
itching to difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, lips, or 
tongue. Please talk with your healthcare professional. 
What is the most important information that 
I should know about ABILIFY? 
Elderly patients, diagnosed with psychosis as a result of 
dementia {for example, an inability to perform daily 
activities as a result af increased memory loss), and who 
are treated with antipsychotic medicines including ABILIFY. 
are at an increased risk of death when compared to 
patients who are treated with a placebo (sugar pill]. 
ABIUFY is not approved for the treatment of patients with 
dementi a -related psychosis. 

Antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts or 
behaviors in some children, teenagers, and young adults, 
especially within the first few months of treatment Dr when 
the dose is changed. Depression and other serious mental 
illnesses are themselves associated with an increase in the 
risk of suicide. Patients on antidepressants and their 
families or caregivers should watch lor new or worsening 
depression symptoms, unusual changes m behavior, or 
thoughts of suicide. Such symptoms should be reported to 
the patient's healthcare professional right away, especially 
ft they are severe or occur suddenly. ABILIFY is not 
approved tor use in pediatric patients with depression. 
Serious side effects can occur with any antipsychotic 
medicine, including ABILIFY. Tell your healthcare professional 
right away if you haue any conditions or side effects, including 
the following: 
Stroke or mini stroke in elderly patients 
with dementia: An increased risk of stroke and 
ministrc-ke has been reported in clinical studies of elderly 



IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT ABILIFY 



patients with dementia {for example, increased memory loss 
anC inability 10 perform daily activities). ABILIFY (aripiprazole! 
is not approved lor treating patients with dementia. 
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS}:Very 
high fever, rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, sweating, or 
increased heart rate and blood pressure may be signs of 
nm$, a rare but serious side effect that could be fatal 
Tardive dyskinesia (TO): Abnormal or uncontrollable 
movements of face, tongue, or other parts of body may oe 
signs of a serious condition known as TD, which may be 
permanent. 

High blood sugar and diabetes: Patients with 
diabetes and those having risk factors for diabetes (for 
exarnpEe. obesity, family history of diabetes), as well as those 
with symptoms such as unexpected mc r eases in thirst, 
urination, or hunger should have their blood sugar levels 
checked before and during treatment. Increases in blood 
sugar levels [hyperglycemia), in some cases serious and 
associated with coma or death, have been reported in 
patients taking ABILIFY, and medicines like it. 
Orthostatic hypotension: Lightheadedness or 
faintness caused by a sudden change in heart rate and blood 
pressure when nsing too quickly from a sitting or lying position 
;orthostati€ hypotension) has been reported with ABILIFY 
Leukopenia, Neutropenia, and Agranulocytosis: 
Decreases in w?iite blood cells ^infection fighting cells) have 
he en reported in some patients taking antipsychotic agents, 
including ABIUFY. Patients with a history of a significant 
decrease in white blood cell (WBCJ count or who have 
experienced a low WBC due to drug therapy should have 
the-r blood tested and monitored during the first few months 
of therapy, 

Suicidal thoughts: if you have suicidal thoughts, you 
should tell your healthcare professional right away. 
Dysphagia: Medicines like ABILIFY have fceen associated 
with swallowing problems {dysphagia). It you had or have 
swallowing problems, you should tell your heatthcare 
professional. 
What should I talk to my healthcare provider 
about? 

Patients and their families or caregivers should watch for new or 
worsening depression symptoms, unusual changes in benavior 
and thoughts of suicide, as weli as fo r anxiety ag-tatmn. panic 
attacks, difficulty sleeping, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, 
impulsivity, restlessness, or extreme hyperactivity. Call your 
healthcare provider right away if you nave thoughts of suicide or 
if any of these symptoms are severe or occur suddenly, Be 
especially observant within The first few months of antidepressant 
treatment or whenever there is a change in dose, 
Tell your healthcare provider atxKrt any medical conditions you 
may have and all medicines that you are taking or plan to take, 
including prescription and over-tiie-counte* medicines, vitamins, 
or herbal products. 
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider 

• If you have suicidal thoughts 

• if you have or have had a low white tod cell count (WBC) 

• If you or anyone in your family have or had seizures 

■ If you or anyone in your famity have or had high blood sugar 
or diabetes 

• If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast- 
feeding 

What should I avoid when taking ABILIFY? 

■ Avoid overheating and dehydration 

• Avoid driving or operating hazardous machinery until you 
know how ABIUFY affects you 

•Avoid drinking alcohol 

• Avoid breast-feeding an infant 



What are the possible side effects of 
ABILIFY (aripiprazole)? 

Common side effects in adults include: nausea, vomiting, 

constipation, headache, dizziness, an inner sense d 

restlessness or need to move (akathisia), anxiety and insomnia. 

It is important to contact your healthcare professional if you 

experience prolonged, abnormal muscle spasm or contraction 

wnich may tie signs of a condition called dystonia 

This is not a complete Iisl of side effects. For full patient 

information, visit wwwabiirfy.com . Talk to your healthcare 

professional if you have questions or develop any side effects. 

What percentage of people stopped taking 

ABILIFY due to side effects? 

In clinical trials, the percentage of adults who discontinued 

taking ABILIFY due to side effects was 6% and 2% tar patients 

treated with sugar pill. 

Can I safely take ABILIFY while I'm taking 

other medications? 

ABILIFY can be taken with most drugs; However, taking ABIUFY 

with some medicines may require your healthcare 

professional to adjust the dosage of ABHJFY. 

Some medicines* include: 

'kctoconazcle(NlZORAL' ?; ) 

•quinidine(QUINIDEX*] 

• fluoxetine (PROZAC*) 

■ paroxetine (PAXIL®) 

• caroanwepine (TEGRETOL®) 

It is important to tell your healthcare professional about all the 
medicines you're taking, just to be sure. 
How should I take ABILIFY? 

• Take ABILIFY exactly as directed by your healthcare 
professional 

■ ABILEFY is usually taken once a day and can be taken with 
or without food 

■ If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. 
However, if it is time for your next dose, skip the missed 
dose and take only your regularly scheduled dose 

■ Talk to your healthcare professional be-'ore stopping ABIUFY 
or changing your dose 

General advice about ABILIFY: 

• ABILIFY should be kept out of the reach of children and pets 

■ Store abilify Tablets and the Oral Solution at room 
temperature 

■ For patients who must limit their sugar intake, be aware 
that AfllUFY Oral Solution contains sugar 

■ For patients who cannot metabolize phenylalanine [those 
with phenylketonuria or PKU). ABILIFY DISCMELT* 
contains phenylalanine 

■ If you have additional questions, talk to your healthcare 
professional 

Find out more about ABILIFY: 

Additional information can be founcf at www.abilify»com 

' NIZORAL 6 a rc^slereif cmjemanc tf Janssei P^rmaosuiits; 0JW3EX 15 a 
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One new drill for Phil. One less drill for mankind. 
Buying pre-owned is the greenest way to buy. 



Come to think of it, 



This year's guide to 
the best holiday gifts 
has a little for you, and 
a little for everyone 
else. For you: the best 
new tools and gear, a 
look at sci-fi tech that 
you can buy today and 
an unforgiving lab test 
of wireless sound 
systems. For them: 
family-friendly toys 
and games that you 
can enjoy, too. (All 
right, so it's kind of all 
for you. We won't tell.) 

BY SETH PORGES 



2 010 popular mechanic 



WISH 
LIST 




9lf 



Powermat Home & Office Charging Mat $200 



the charginj 
for all that 
gadgetry add up. 
Powermat's 
charging mat uses 
magnetic induction 
to wirelessly power 
up to three devices 



The result: The 
number of wires is 
knocked down to 
one (the power 
has to come 
from somewhere). 
But the best is 
yet to come. The 



■y claims 
.going to build 
etech directly 

into tables— we 

recently saw a 

demo of a futuristic 

kitchen where 

appliances draw 

power from 

the counter. 



Powermat's 
adapters 
($30 to $40 
apiece) allow it 
to charge phones, 
cameras, MP3 
players, portable 
game systems, 
headsets and 
GPS devices. 



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A HANDHELD ESPRESSO MACHINE, COMPACT CAMPING C00KSET AND CLASSIC TOBOGGAN: 



PHOTOGRAPH BY LEVI BROWN 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 31 




The 3D home 
theater is catching 
up to the multiplex. 
Shutter glasses 
such as the Nvidia 
3D Vision Kit 
($200) work by 
blacking out one 
eye at a time, 
60 times per 
second— so fast you 
don't notice it. An 
infrared emitter 
syncs these flashes 
with a quickly 



switching screen, 
allowing each eye 
to effectively see 
a different image. 
The 3D effect 
comes from 
showing the same 
scene to each eye 
from a different 
perspective. Lots of 
current games can 
be played in 3D, and 
software from 
companies like DDD 
can convert any 
off-the-shelf DVD 
into 3D live, as it 
plays. Just make 
sure you have a 3D- 
compatible display. 



4 In the past two 
years, projectors 
have shrunken to 
palm-size portables. 
They're called "pico" 
projectors, and 
Texas Instruments, 
Microvision and 
3M each have takes 
on the tech, which 
can be found in 
gadgets such as the 
iPod-attachable 
WowWee Cinemin 
Swivel ($350). 
For now, these 
battery-powered 
projectors may be 



most useful 
for party tricks, 
but the tech's 
tipping point 
will likely come 
from its conver- 
gence with existing 
devices. Nikon 
already has a 
camera out with a 
built-in projector, 
and cellphones 
aren't far behind. 



32 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



JUST 



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CAMEL SNUS 



O2009 RJ REYNOLDS TOBACCO CO. 



" 



The Beatles: 
Rock Band 

$60 for game, 

$250 for 

limited-edition 

instrument bundle 



popular 
mechanics 




-+ New York- 
based band 
Dujeous come 
together to test 
out The Beatles: 
Rock Band. (From 
left, Mas D, Apex, 
Tomek and Mojo.) 



-+ The much-hyped new Rock Band release 
eschews a scattershot set list for a fine 
focus on the Fab Four. The result: a cross- 
generational romp through music history 
that's sure to get some unlikely family 
members to pick up plastic instruments 
and drum, strum and sing along with the 
most beloved band of all time. Call it catnip 
for Beatlemaniacs, and perhaps the only 
game this year that works equally well as a 
gift for dadf or the kids. 



"The replicas of the instruments are spot-on. 
It was awesome rocking on Paul's Hofner bass. ' 
—Alex "Apex" Gale, Dujeous bass player 
and PM copy editor 




3/8 



34 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 






® TOYOTA 

moving forward 

YOU 






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^ THE FIFTH GENERATION 

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Sherpa-inspiring Fifth Generation 4Runner will take you places where there 
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Options shown. '4WD models only. ©2009 Toyota Motor SaJes, USA. Inc. 



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y 



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■mm** ^ 






DC31 Vacuum 



Dyson s new 
vac features t? 
power modes: 
scaled back for 
longer battery life, 
orturbocharged 
for tough jobs. 



Milwaukee M18 
Cordless Band 

Saw ($400) 



. ld rd falls on 
concrete are one of 
the most common 
causes of death for 
band saws. 
Milwaukee's new 
18-volt lithium-ion- 
powered cordless 
cutting tool is 
designed 
specifically to 
survive such spills. 



Sony 

PlayStation 3 
120 GB 
System ($300) 

Sony's PS3 just 
took a cut in price 
and size— it's now 
a third slimmer, 
uses a third less 
power and is $100 
cheaper than 
earlier versions. 



pfwnf i 



/-\ 30-ii am... _ r . . 
second burst mode 
makes this the 
fastest compact 
camera ever, and 
the best pick for 
goal kicks, 
gymnastics flips 
and other 
high-speed action. 



Redington CPX 
Series 6-Weight 
Flyrod ($300) 
and Redington 
RISE Reel ($160) 

The 9-foot rod 
balances power and 
finesse with a 
spirally wrapped 
graphite layup, 
while the fully 
machined aluminum 
reel features a 
midsize arbor that 
gobbles in line with 
each handle crank. 



Microsoft Zune 

HD ($219 for 16 GB, 
$289 for 32 GB) 

The 3.3-inch OLED 
display on 
Microsoft's 
attempted iPod 
Touch-killer is one 
of the best-looking 
mobile screens 
we've ever seen. 
And when paired 
with an optional 
dock, the player 
can pump HD 
video directly to 
your TV. 



36 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




If you own a car, 
Popular Mechanics has 
the manual you can't 
do without! 

Hush those squeaks. 

Replace the U-joints. 

Maintain your windshield wipers, 
Handle steering wheel wander. 

Fix faulty cruise control* 

Change your oil and filter* 



Only $29.95 (Canada $42.95) 

in hardcover wherever books are sold. 




Red Toolbox 
Birdhouse 

$27 
Classic 
Toolbox 

$28 



m As more schools cut shop class, 
it's increasingly up to parents 
to teach hands-on skills. Red 
Toolbox's beginning woodworking 
project kits come with easy-to- 
follow directions and precut pieces 
of wood. Intermediate and 
advanced projects hone a young 
carpenter's measuring, cutting and 
drilling skills. Even if the instruc- 
tions are a bit too brief at times, 
that's just an opportunity to step in 
and show a kid now it's done. 

"It was fun using a drill for the first 
time to build the birdhouse." 
—Anwen Herbert-Lewis, daughter of PM 
senior art director Peter Herbert 



-* This toolbox 
and birdhouse 
are two beginner- 
level project kits 
from Red Toolbox. 
More advanced 
projects include 
soapbox-derby- 
style go-karts, a 
model catapult 
and art deco-style 
shelving. (Anwen 
Herbert-Lewis, 
left, PM contribut- 
ing editor Davin 
Coburn and Lilah 
Herbert-Lewis.) 





38 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



This season's shows still look great 
on last season's HD TV. 



Come to think of it, 



popular 
mechanics 












□ 











WISH 
LIST 



The average home is filled I 
with wireless signals, all bouncing! 
around in the same limited i 
spectrum space. This can foil | 
a wireless sound system i 
trying to transmit tunes around 
the house, but some setups handle 
interference better than others. 
We tested three systems, including 
two designed for multiroom use, i 
against a grueling wireless traffic 
jam. Here s how they fared. ~ 

BY SETH PORGES 



We placed the 
transmitters and 
receivers in 
separate rooms, 
with a phalanx of 
interference- 
causing devices 
between them (see 
diagram below). 
BOSE : The only 
system to fail this 
test completely— 
interference ruined 
the signal. 
SONOS: At first, 
the signal was 
completely blocked. 
But we switched 
channels and got 
clear, rich sound. 
SOUNDCAST: 
What interference? 
WINNER: 
Soundcast 



IN-HOME 



DISTANCE 



How far can the 
wireless signal 
travel through a 
fixture-filled home? 
We walked the 
receivers down a 
concrete-filled 
apartment building 
to see. 

BOSE : The speaker 
got almost three 
stories from the 
transmitter before 
breaking into static. 
SONOS: Once 
again, the sound 
called it quits just 
shy of three floors 
down. 

SOUNDCAST:Yep, 
three stories was 
the limit. 
WINNER: 
Three-way tie 



4 the tests 



EASE OF USE 



How stressful 
was setup? 

BOSE: Truly 
plug-and-play. Pop 
the USB transmit- 
ter dongle into a PC 
and the streaming 
begins. 

SONOS: Setup 
took a lot of time 
and fiddling. But 
once ready, the 
system is a snap to 
control via an 
iPhoneappor 
remote control. 
SOUNDCAST: 
Almost as easy to 
use as the Bose, 
and effortlessly 
expandable. 
WINNER:Bose 



+ bottom line 



The Bose is a practical (if pricey) one-speaker solution. But if your house 
is full of interference— or you want a multiroom rig— opt for the Sonos 
or SoundCast. The Sonos is more feature-filled, the SoundCast simpler. 



nfSnfl 




iPhone 




Sonos 

($1000 for multiroom starter bundle) 



j Soundcast 

w SpeakerCast ($400) 



Bose 
SoundLink ($550) 



40 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



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-* Hollywood wizards use green screens to transport 
actors to distant planets. Now, you can use the same 
tech to enter classic films. Sit in front of Yoostar's green 
screen and read your lines off a computer monitor. The 
program uses a camera (included) to digitally insert you 
in place of Brando or Hanks, allowing you to go mono o 
mono with some of film's most memorable characters. 
Completed clips can then be shared on Yoostar's site. 
Think of it as GuitorHero for the movies. 



Yoostar 

$170 



1 especially liked being put into the toga party in Animal House. 
It's classic! It made me feel like one of the Deltas. " — Oliver Dunbar, 
left, with brother Evan, sons ofPM executive editor David Dunbar 



7/8 



WISH 
LIST 




42 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



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Should they be considered as an unfatr advantage 7 We don't know; all we can 
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Advanced Technology in Footwear 

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For those who want to elevate their game to the next level, 
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mechanics 



WISH 
LIST 



m 



Mountain Boy 
6-Foot 
Toboggan ($200 

"he extra-large 
- nA ^url on this 
nily toboggan 
big enough to 
hold an adult's 
.oot, and its 
basswood finish is 
elegant enough to 
be displayed in the 
off-season. 



Mypressi Twist 
Espresso Maker 



This travel-friendly 
espresso maker 
uses off-the-shelf 
nitrous-oxide 
cartridges to 
prepare the 
coffee— no power 
plugs needed. 



Samsung 
DualView TL225 
Camera ($350) 

Self-portraits have 
never been easier, 
thanks to a second, 
front-facing LCD 
screen on this 
12-megapixel, 
4.6x-optical-zooming 
compact camera. 



Bosch SPS10 MSR Flex 4 

4-Volt Pocket System Cookset 

Screwdriver ($60) ($160) 



What this fist- 
lithium-ion 4-volt 
mini driver lacks in 
power it makes up 
for in portability— it 
weighs just a 
pound, making it 
ideal for small jobs 
such as hanging 
'^.uresand 
embling 
liture. 



Ardica Moshi 
Personal Power 
System ($145) 

This lithiun. ._ 
battery pack slips 
unobtrusively 
inside compatible 
jackets (like those 
from Mountain 
Hardwear, pictured) 
to keep wearers 
warm and charge 
their gadgets via 
a pocket-based 
USB cord. 



cooking set packs 
two pots and 
enough plates and 
insulated mugs for 
a hungry group of 
four or more into a 
backpack-friendly 
nested bundle. 



Benchmade 585 
Mini-Barrage 
Knife ($120) 

For easy one- 
handed opening, 
give this 2.9-inch 
folding knife's ambi- 
dextrous thumb 
stud a nudge, and 
an internal spring 
does the rest. 



44 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




Last year's music player at half price 
still plays this year's music at full volume. 



Come to think of it, 



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Introducing the next 
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By now, youVe probably heard the buzz about FEIN compact 
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ILLUSTRATION BY LEANDRO CASTELAO 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM I DECEMBER 2009 53 



2010 



AUTOMO 



AWARDS 



OFF-ROAD 
ABILITY 



The Ford F-150 Raptor 

looks tough enough to run 
straight down the Baja 
Peninsula, race across the 
Mexican mainland and 
then continue roaring 
down through South 
America until it plows 
across Antarctica. It is the 
most extreme high-speed 
4x4 pickup ever produced. 
It looks simply ferocious 
with its swollen flanks, 
aggressive stance, visibly 
rugged suspension pieces 
and thumping 35-inch-tall 



BF Goodrich off-road tires. 
The powertrain is still pure 
F-150, with a 320-hp 
5.4-literV8linkedtoa 
six-speed automatic, 
though an exclusive 
400-hp 6.2-liter "Boss" 
V8 will soon become an 
option. Engineers 
widened the F-150's track 
by 7 inches with new 
upper and lower control 
arms. The lower arms are 
chamfered like a 
skidplate, so rocks can 
slide underneath without 
hanging the truck up. To 
allow the Raptor to glide 
over obstacles and take 
the punishment of hard 
landings, the Special 
Vehicle Team (SVT) chose 



specifically tuned 
internal-bypass Fox 
Racing shocks. There's 
nothing exotic about how 
the Raptor moves over 
pavement. But the thrills 
off-road are mighty 
indeed— the truck is 
absolutely magical. 
Whoops, whoop-dees and 
whoop-dee-doos all get 
swallowed up by the 
Raptor's suspension with 
casual disdain. At speeds 
that would lead to jail 
time when practiced on 



any interstate, the Ra| ' 
can cruise over yard-deep 
gullies as if they were 
speed bumps at a 
Wal-Mart. Amazingly, 
while all of the SVT s 
changes are designed to 
aid the Raptor's off-road 
ability, they don't exact a 
toll in truck utility. The 
Raptor is rated to tow 
6000 pounds and carry a 
maximum payload of 
1020 pounds. A truck 
that works as hard as it 
plays? Sign us up. 



Ford's Special Vehicle Team — the same engineers who devel- 
oped the Mustang Shelby GT5 00— transformed the F-150 
pickup into the most capable high-speed 4WD truck ever 

produced. The Raptor team tuned the suspension on a brutal 
62-mile loop in a remote part of the California desert. 



F-150 RAPTOR 

BASE PRICE: $ 






++ Popular Mechanics 
Test Driven 






54 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 





YOU JUST HUNT CUT. 




I 



) \ 




Spar-" 



B lllito«* 



Prestone 







These days, it's tempting to try to save a buck or two. But your inner car guy knows your engine is no place to skimp. Just 
look for the big yellow jug and you're always covered. Prestone® 50/50 Ready-to-Use Extended Life Antifreeze/Coolant 
is formulated to protect any make of model car, and mixes with any color antifreeze. It's perfectly pre-mixed, so you just 
pop, pour and protect. 



Prestone 

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www.prestone.com ©2008 Honeywell International Inc. A Honeywell car care product. 



2010 



AUTOMO 



AWARDS 



FUEL EFFICIENCY 



TECHNICAL 
INNOVATION 



Few cars define efficient 

travel like the Toyota 
Prius. And the Prius has 
been the mpg leader— 
a title it has earned yet 
again with its 2010 
model. A low (0.25) 
coefficient of drag is 
where the efficiency 
starts, but the real secret 
is in the refinements to 
Toyota's hybrid system. 
Trie 1.5-liter engine has 
been replaced with a 
torque-rich 1.8-liter unit 
that still operates with 
the late-intake-valve- 
closing Atkinson cycle. 
More low-end torque 
means the engine doesn't 
have to work as hard. Trie 
hybrid system uses the 



Fuel 
Efficiency 



: I-* 



same planetary continu- 
ously variable transmis- 
sion (CVT) as before, but 
with a new twist. The 
main electric motor drive 
was downsized and 
produces less torque (153 
Ib-ft versus 295). But a 
reduction gearset that 
connects it to the gearbox 
allows that motor to spin 
faster. Consequently, it 
makes 80 peak hp, 13 
more than before. The 
nickel-metal-hydride 
battery pack has a more 
effective cooling system 
too, which allows peak 
output to rise from 25 
kilowatts to 27. And now, 
finally, Prius owners can 
hit an EV button and 
cruise for about a mile 
locked in electric drive. On 
a recent test, the car 
delivered a thrifty 52 mpg 
in the city— even better 
than the EPA's 51-mpg 



rating. Toyota's hybrid 
system remains the 
benchmark. But the tech 
extends beyond the 
drivetrain with optional 
solar ventilation, 
radar-based cruise control 
and intelligent parking. 
Yet it's the driving 
dynamics that make the 
Toyota appealing to a 
wider audience. This is the 
first Prius that's actually 
fun to drive. 




The Prius, with 
its 50-plus-mpg 
capability, is the 
most fuel-efficient 
car in America. And 
Toyota will raise 
that bar within 
two years. The 
plug-in version 
for 201 2 will have 
an electric-only 
range of 12.5 miles 
thanks to lithium- 
ion batteries. 





Lexus 

(©) REMOTE 
^^ TOUCH 

As automobiles 

accumulate more and more 
advanced electronic 
functions, how do you 
control them? Newer 
systems attempt to access 
nearly every automotive 
function with a single-point 
controller. And every 
strategy has had draw- 
backs—except for Lexus's 
new Remote Touch. This 
haptic system works just 
like a computer mouse: You 
guide an arrow on the car's 
main screen and click a 
button at the controller's 
base with your thumb to 
make a selection. It offers 
subtle but effective force 
feedback to let the operator 
know when the cursor has 
crossed to a different 
function or onto a virtual 
button. And you can dial in 
exactly the amount of 
feedback you want. This 
brilliant system is the 
solution we've been waiting 
for. Remote Touch is only 
available on the Lexus 
HS250h and RX 350. 



56 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



m 



'igh Definition Built into Sunglasses 



HDVision Ultras 



See the world in high definition! igj 

Why pay $1 00 or more for sunglasses that 
just makes things darker? Introducing HD 
VISION ULTRAS, the first sunglasses 
that not only block glare and ultraviolet 
rays, but also make colors come alive! 
Wearing them is like discovering the 
world for the first time. Everything 
looks crisper and more radiant. 
Things normally drowned out by 
the sun spring sharply into view. 
That means they're perfect for: 

• Days at the beach 

• Driving 

• Fishing and boating 

• Sporting events 

• And so much more! 

But the best part is the price! 

You won't pay $100 or even $50. 

Through this special offer, we are 

going to be giving away HD Vision 

Ultras for just $1 0! As a special * wo% uv Protection 

bonus, you'll get a second pair of • No Glare 

ULTRAS free with every pair you buy • Crystal Clear 

(just pay additional shipping and han- * Great Styling 

dling). That's two pairs for just $10! 




How To Got Yours 

I none: Call toll-free: 1-800-635-7059 

Z Web: Type this special address into 

your browser: tryfidyisioti.com/MEC 

3. Mail: Send a check or money order 
made out to "HD Ultra" for $16.99 
(includes S&H) plus *$6.99 S&H for 
2nd set to: HD Ultra Offer MEC, 
PO Box 4525, Pacoima, CA 91333. 

N J and CA residents MUST add sales tax. 

© 2009 Ideaviitage. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. 






NEW! 



HDVision 



Ultra Sunglc 




Also available in Tortoise 



Caff 1-800-635-7059 or visit tryhdvision.com/MEC 



2010 



AUTOMO 



AWARDS 



FUN TO DRIVE 




Fun to 
Drive 



Hyundai has transjormed its image — and its cars — in an amazingly short time, 
he Genesis sedan, introduced last year, proved the Korean company could produce 
Lexus-level luxury. This year's Genesis Coupe shows that Hyundai can deliver an 

exceedingly fun-to-drive sports coupe. 




Hyundai's new Genesis 

Coupe returns rear-wheel- 
drive handling dynamics 
to budget-minded 
enthusiasts. Sporty cars 
in this Hyundai's price 
range are usually hot-rod 
versions of front-wheel- 
drive econoboxes. 
However, Hyundai 
adapted the rear-drive 
Genesis platform for this 
alluring driver's car. The 



result is a sports coupe 
that can fend off cars 
costing thousands more. 
In fact, when we tested a 
Genesis Coupe against an 
Infiniti G37, the Hyundai 
nearly matched the Infiniti 
in every performance 
measure, and did so for 
$15,000 less. The chassis 
feels taut and controlled, 
with steering responses 
that encourage the driver 



to press harder into each 
corner, driving the tires 
right up to the edge of 
their capability. This is a 
car designed for canyon 
carving— especially when 
equipped with the Track 
package, which includes 
19-inch wheels with 
summer tires, Brembo 
brakes, sport-tuned 
suspension and a 
limited-slip differential. 



Hyundai's big V8 is not 
available— but the 306-hp 
V6 and the six-speed 
automatic is good for 
sub-six-second sprints to 
60mph.A210-hpturbo 
four-cylinder is a less 
expensive and rather 
compelling alternative. 
The Genesis Coupe is 
more than just a sleek, 
fun-to-drive sports 
coupe. It's proof that 
Hyundai has developed 
world-class design, 
engineering and car- 
building expertise. 



Popular Mechanics 
Test Driven 



58 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



«£gafi 



I fin i^iwrpd rbj 



It's the captain of MP3s. Your words are the DJ. 




MUSIC SEARCH 

JUST ONE OF THE MANY AMAZING FEATURES FROM SYNC,' 

THE VOICE-ACTIVATED IN-tAR TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE 

EXCLUSIVELY ON FORD, LINCOLN AND MERCURY VEHICLES.* 



SYNC. Say the word. 




hands-free calling • ■ vehicle health report •turn-hy-turn navigation • business search • 911 Assist* • feahime traffic * audible text • my favorites 

Learn more about all SYNC features o1 syncmyride.com 



"Driving while distracted can result >n loss oi verrde control. Only use irobite ptas ar-d other devices, even with voice cocnmands, wnen i: is safe to do so. 



2010 



AUTOMO 



AWARDS 

* WORKHORSE 



LUXURY 



Workhorse 

Ford 



TRANSIT 
CONNECT 

BASE PRICE: $21,475 

For generations, the 

default vehicle for plumbers, 
contractors and delivery 
drivers has been the full-size 
van. The pressures of the 
economy, ever-increasing 
urban congestion and the 
fluctuating price of gasoline 
could move them to smaller 
rigs like the Transit Connect. 
The size is just right, with a 
low, flat floor that can be 
loaded through any of the 
three cargo doors. Powered 
by a thrifty four-cylinder 
engine driving the front 
wheels, the van returns 
22 mpg city and 25 on the 
highway, is low enough to 
slide into many garages and 
can handle a 1600-pound 
payload. "mere's also Ford's 
Tool Link, a system that 
builds RFID sensors into the 
van so that at the press of a 
button the driver can see an 
inventory of all the tools 
aboard. The Transit Connect 
could also be a fun utility 
truck for the outdoor 
enthusiast— 135 cubic feet 
can hold an awful lot of 
camping gear. 




BMW 335d 

Luxury BASE PRICE: $43,900 




In the future, the word 

"luxury" might describe 
automotive qualities 
quite different from what 
we imagine today. When 
sedate and sensible fuel 
sippers dominate the 
automotive landscape, 
luxury could define the 
ability to produce sports 
car acceleration with 
exemplary fuel economy. 
The BMW 335d is ahead 
of that curve. Under 
the hood is a twin- 
turbocharged 3.0-liter 
inline six-cylinder diesel, 
with a mammoth 425 
Ib-ft of torque that can 
return solid mileage. In 
fact, on a recent 390-mile 
PM test, we saw 33.6 
mpg. It takes only one 
brief prod of the right 
pedal to know the BMW 
has an incredible motor. 
The rush of torque is not 
unlike an old-school 
big-block V8's. Reeling in 



lesser cars is not only 
effortless, it's tantaliz- 
ingly fun. And this diesel 
model fits right in with 
the rest of BMW's 
3 Series lineup, offering 
fluid, organic steering and 
a chassis that encourages 
you to press on just as 
hard as the road and your 
bravado will allow. Yet 
this BMW rides comfort- 
ably and absorbs 
potholes with a muted 
"thump." Luxury cars 
don't have to be 
one-dimensional. The 
335d blends luxury, 
performance, fuel 
economy and fun into one 
very rewarding package. 



60 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 





BUILT FOR AMERICA'S FORCES. BUILT FOR YOU. 
www.fnhusa.com/finestfirearms 



2010 



AUTOMO 



AWARDS 

■ DESIGN 



After a painfully long eight-year hiatus, the Chevy Camaro returns packing V8 power and V6 
efficiency wrapped around classic sheet metal pulled forward into the 21st century. The design cer- 
tainly pays homage to the past, but the muscular lines of this Camaro are modern and fresh. 




Chevrolet 



CAMARO 




The success of a new 

car design, especially a 
sporty one, depends on 
its ability not just to turn 
heads, but to inspire an 
almost primal lust in 
everyone from a college 
kid to his grandfather- 
hitting all the age groups 
in between. The new 
Camaro does just 
that— and it's become 
one of the few cars 
outside the supercar 



rTiil 33* 3 ik i4vJ 1 1 PI 1 1 1 mam 



always elicit a conversa- 
tion at the gas pumps. 
Under the watch of GM 
design boss Ed Welburn, 
Chevy imagined the new 
Camaro as a thoroughly 
modern take on the 1967 
original. And it looks 
amazingly close to the 
2006 concept car. GM 
engineers somehow 
avoided the compromises 
that tend to dilute a 
designer's original vision 
as it makes its way into 
production. The inset 
front grille and the 



Design 



outboard round head- 
lights offer a real link to 
that first Camaro, yet the 
big wheels and taut 
proportions perfectly 
convey 21st-century 
muscle. Good design 
extends to the interior 
too: The view through the 
windshield is 1960s cool, 
yet it's the subtleties that 
make this car feel so 
right. Of course, a Camaro 
wouldn't feel right at all if 



there wasn't some 
serious firepower under 
the hood. The top-dog 
SS models have a big 
422-hp 6.2-liter V8, and 
even the base cars 
receive a potent V6 that 
returns 30 mpg highway. 
The real triumph is that all 
the Camaro's perfor- 
mance and intelligent 
design can be had forjust 
a tick over $20,000. 
That's a bargain. 



++ Popular Mechanics 
Test Driven 



62 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



I used to think it 
just a phase, until I had 
with my doct 



'the talk* 



Tour Doctor Talks to Men 
About ED Every Day 

Actually, erectile dysfunction (BD) is more than 
just a phase- It's a common medical condition 
affecting millions of men just like you. 
But your doctor can help. 



Doaoi 





Keys to Opening Up 
to Your Doctor 

The hardest part about having 
the talk" is getting chose first 
few words out. Here are 
some ideas to help you break 
the ice when your doctor 
asks how everything's going: 

The Direct Approach: 
"I have trouble sometimes 
in bed* Could it be ED?" 

The Indirect Approach: 
"Is it rrue age affects 
sexual performance?" 

The Silent Approach: 
Just hand this ad to your 
doctor, he'll rake it from there. 



Running the Numbers 

Did you know half of all guys 
over 40 have some form of ED? 
Here are some numbers to 
keep in mind from a recent 
survey of men with ED: 



of men were 
anxious about 
talking to their 
doctor about ED T 

of men felt relieved 
after talking to 
their doctor. 






Tell Me 
More 

To learn more 
about VIAGRA for the 
treatment of ED, and ED in 
general, visit viagra.com today. 
You' LI find an online sexual health 
quiz, videos of guys with ED 
who've had the VIAGRA Talk 
and other helpful information. 

Over 20 million men have already 
had their VIAGRA Talk. Isn't it 
rime you had yours? 



Important Safety Information 

We know thar no medicine is for everyone. 
Don't take VIAGRA if you rake nitrates, 
often prescribed for chest pain, as this may 
cause a sudden unsafe drop in blood pressure. 

Talk with your doctor first. Make sure your 
heart is healthy enough to have sex. If you 
have chest pain, nausea, or other discomforts 
during sex, seek medical help right away. 

In the rare event of an erection lasting more 
than four hours, seek immediate medical help 
to avoid long- term injury 

In rare instances, men who take PDE5 
inhibitors (oral erectile dysfunction medicines, 
including VIAGRA) reported a sudden 
decrease or loss of vision, or sudden decrease 
or loss of hearing. It is not possible to determine 
whether these events are related directly to 
these medicines or to other factors. If you 
experience any of these symptoms, stop 
taking PDE5 inhibitors, including VIAGRA, 
and call a doctor right away 

The most common side effects of VIAGRA 
are headache, facial flushing, and upset 
stomach. Less common are Bluish or blurred 
vision, or being sensitive to light. These may 
occur for a brief time. 

VIAGRA does not protect against sexually 
transmitted diseases including HIV. 

Please see Important Facts for VIAGRA on 
the following page or visit viaera.com for full 
prescribinginfoLarion. % 

For free information, including questions 
to ask your doctor, call 1-888-4 VI AGRA 

(1-888-484^2472). 



6 



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IMPORTANT FACTS 



(vi-AG-rah) 



(sildenafil citrate) takUu 



] 



IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION ABOUT VIAGRA 

Never take VIAGRA if you Lake any medicines with nitrates. This 
include* nitroglycerin. Your blood pressure could drop quickly. It could 
fall to an unsafe or Life- threatening level, 

ABOUT ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION (ED) 

Erectile dysfunction means a man cannot get or keep an erection. Health 
problems, injury, or side effects of drugs may cause ED. The cause may 
. not be known. 

ABOUT VIAGRA 

VIAGRA is used to treat ED in men. When you want to have ses, 
VIAGRA can help you get and keep an erection when you are sexually 
excited. You cannot get an erection just by taking the pilk Only your 
doctor can prescribe VIAGRA, 
VIAGRA does not cure ED, 

VIAGRA does not protect you or your partner from STDs (sexually 
transmitted diseases) or HIV. You will need to use a condom. 
i VIAGRA is riot a hormone or an aphrodisiac. 

'WHO IS VIAGRA FOR? 

Who should take VIAGRA? 

Men who have ED and whose heart is healthy enough for sex. 

Who should NOT take VIAGRA? 

• IF you ever take medicines with nitrates; 

• Medicines that treat chest pain (angina), such as nitroglycerin 
or isosorbide monon itratc or di nitrate 

• IF you use some street drugs, such as "poppers" (amyl nitrate or 
nitrite) 

• If you are allergic to anything in the VIAGRA tablet. 



r. 



BEFORE YOU START VIAGRA 

Tell your doctor If you have or ever had: 

* Heart attack, abnormal heartbeats, or stroke 

* Heart problems, such as heart failure, chest pain, or aortic valve 
narrowing 

* Low or high blood pressure 

* Severe vision loss 

* An eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa 

■ K idney or I i ver prob I em s 

■ Blood problems, such as sickle cell anemia or leukemia 

« A deformed penis. Peyronie's disease* or an erection that lasted 
more than 4 hours 

* Stomach ulcers or any kind of bleeding problems 

Tell your doctor about all your medicines* Include over-the-counter 
medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor if you 
take or use: 

* Medicines called alpha- blockers to treat high blood pressure or 
prostate problems. Your blood pressure could suddenly get too 
low. You could get dizzy or faint. Your doctor may start you on a 
lower dose of VIAGRA. 

* Medicines called protease inhibitors for HIV Your doctor may 
prescribe a 25 mg dose. Your doctor may limit VIAGRA to 25 
ing in a 48 -hour period. 

* Other methods to cause erections. These include pills, injections* 
implants, or pumps. 



POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF VIAGRA 

Side effects are mostly mild to moderate. They usually go away after 
a few hours. Some of these are more likely to happen with higher doses 
The most common side effects are: 

• Headache • Feeling flushed ■ Upset stomach 
Less common side effects are: 

• Trouble telling blue and green apart or seeing a blue tinge on things 

• Eyes being more sensitive to light * Blurred vision 
Rarely, a small number of men taking VIAGRA have 
reported these serious events: 

■ Having an erection that lasts more than 4 hours. If the erection is 
not treated right away, long-term loss of potency could occur. 

• Sudden decrease or loss of sight in one or both eyes. We do not 
know if these events are caused by VIAGRA and medicines like 
it or caused by other factors. They may be caused by conditions 
like high blood pressure or diabetes. If you have sudden vision 
changes, stop using VIAGRA and all medicines like it. Call your 
doctor right away. 

• Sudden decrease or loss of hearing. We do not know if these 
events are caused by VIAGRA and medicines like it or caused 
by other factors. If you have sudden hearing changes t stop using 
VIAGRA and all medicines like it. Call your doctor right away. 

• Heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeats, and death. We do not 
know whether these events are caused by VIAGRA or caused by 
other factors, Most of these happened in men who already had 
heart problems. 

If you have any of these problems, stop VIAGRA, Call your doctor 
right away. 



/£ 



HOW TO TAKE VIAGRA 

Do: 

• Take VIAGRA only the way your doctor tells you, VIAGRA 
comes in 25 mg t 50 mg, and 100 mg tablets. Your doctor will tell 
you how much to take. 

• If you are over 65 or have serious liver or kidney problems, your 
doctor may start you at the lowest dose (25 mg). 

■ Take VIAGRA about 1 hour before you want to have sex, 
VIAGRA starts to work in about 30 minutes when you are 
sexually excited. VIAGRA lasts up to 4 hours. 

Don't; 

• Do not take VIAGRA more than once a day. 

• Do not take more VIAGRA than your doctor tells you. If you 
think you need more VTAGRA, talk with your doctor. 

• Do not start or stop any other medicines before checking with 
. your doctor. 



NEED MORE INFORMATION? 

* This is only a summary of important information, Ask your 
doctor or pharmacist for complete product information OR 
- Go to www.viagraxoin or call (888) 4 -VTAGRA (484-2472). 



Uninsured? Need heEp paying for Pfizer medicine? Pfizer t^\ f 

has programs that can help. Call 1-866-706-2400 or visit ViricvArfirc* 

www. Pftze rH elpfu) Answers, com . GnS WSi S 

Distributed by: 

Pfaer Labs 

Division of Pfizer lnc, NY, NY 10017 
Rx Only C2007 Ffkcr Inc All risstit* reserved Printed in the USA- 

VGD7 Rev 4 12/07 
Registered Trademarks we (tie property of their respective owners 



c. 



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NKING AHEAD 




THE NEW MACHINE AGE 

> BY GLENN HARLAN REYNOLDS 

> ILLUSTRATION BY NATHAN HUANG 




or some time now, futurists have 
been talking about a concept called 
the Singularity, a technological jump 
so big that society will be transformed. 
If they're right, the Industrial Revolu- 
tion — or even the development of agri- 
culture or harnessing of fire — might 
seem like minor historical hiccups by 
comparison. The possibility is now 
seeming realistic enough that scien- 
tists and engineers are grappling with 
the implications — for good and ill. 

When I spoke to technology pio- 
neer and futurist Ray Kurzweil (who 
popularized the idea in his book 
The Singularity Is Near), he put it this 
way: "Within a quarter-century, non- 



FUTURISTS SAY THE 
SINGULARITY-WHEN 

COMPUTERS OVERTAKE 
HUMANS-IS COMING. 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? 



biological intelligence will match the 
range and subtlety of human intelli- 
gence. It will then soar past it." 

Even before we reach that point, 
Kurzweil and his peers foresee breath- 
taking advances. Scientists in Israel 
have developed tiny robots to crawl 
through blood vessels attacking can- 
cers, and labs in the United States are 
working on similar technology. These 
robots will grow smaller and more 
capable. One day, intelligent nanoro- 
bots may be integrated into our bodies 
to clear arteries and rebuild failing 
organs, communicating with each 
other and the outside world via a 
"cloud" network. Tiny bots might 
attach themselves to neurons in the 
brain and add their processing 
power — and that of other computers 
in the cloud — to ours, giving us men- 
tal resources that would dwarf any- 
thing available now. By stimulating 
the optic, auditory or tactile nerves, 
such nanobots might be able to simu- 
late vision, hearing or touch, provid- 
ing "augmented reality" overlays iden- 
tifying street names, helping with face 
recognition or telling us how to repair 
things we've never seen before. 

Scientists in Japan are already pro- 
ducing rudimentary nanobot 
"brains." Could it take decades for 
these technologies to come to frui- 
tion? Yes — but only decades, not cen- 
turies. The result may be what Kurz- 
weil calls "an intimate merger 
between the technology-creating spe- 
cies and the technological evolution- 
ary process it spawned." 

If scientists can integrate tiny 
robots into the human body, then they 



70 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




NANOROBOTS FLOATING AROUND IN YOUR 

BLOODSTREAM COULD KEEP YOUR 

CORONARY ARTERIES FROM CLOGGING, 

BUT THEY ALSO COULD RELEASE DRUGS ON 

COMMAND, MAKING YOU, SAY, LITERALLY 

LOVE BIG BROTHER. 



can build tiny robots into, well, every- 
thing, ushering in an era of "smart 
matter." Nanobots may be able to 
build products molecule-by-molecule, 
making the material world look a lot 
like the computer world — with just 
about everything becoming smart, 
cheap and networked to pretty much 
everything else, including your brain. 

It's almost impossibly futuristic- 
sounding stuff. But even that scenario 
is just the precursor to the Singularity 
itself, the moment when, in Kurzweil's 
words, "nonbiological intelligence 
will have access to its own design and 
will be able to improve itself in an 
increasingly rapid redesign cycle." 
Imagine computers so advanced that 
they can design and build new, even 
better computers, with subsequent 
generations emerging so quickly they 
soon leave human engineers the 
equivalent of centuries behind. That's 
the Singularity — and given the expo- 
nential acceleration of technological 
change, it could come by midcentury. 

But Is It for Real? 

It seems like a tall order, but lots of 
people think that such predictions are 
likely to come true. I asked science- 
fiction writer John Scalzi about Singu- 
larity issues and he pointed out that 
the Skype video we were using to chat 
would have seemed like witchcraft a 
few centuries earlier. Profound tech- 
nological changes once took millen- 
nia, then centuries, and then decades. 
Now they occur every few years. The 
iPhone and pocket-size 12-megapixel 
digital cameras would have seemed 
amazing a decade ago. Web browsers 
are only about 15 years old. People 
(including my wife) have computers 
implanted in their bodies already, in 
the form of defibrillators, pacemakers 
and other devices. 

Still, I'm describing a world in 
which nanotechnology makes us 



(nearly) immortal, in which robots 
can make almost any object from 
cheap raw materials (basically, dirt) 
and in which ordinary people are 
smarter than Einstein thanks to brain 
implants — but still nowhere near as 
smart as fully artificial intelligences. 
That's a world that's hard to imagine. 

And what we do imagine can sound 
either good or bad. On the upside, 
what's not to like about being super- 
smart and healthy, with access to most 
products essentially for free? On the 
downside, could always-on links from 
our brains to the computing cloud 
lead to Star Trek's iiber-totalitarian 
Borg collective or something equally 
scary? And, what happens to those 
computer-brain interfaces and nano- 
bots when they're taken over by the 
descendants of the Conficker worm? 
Now there's an argument for strong 
antivirus software. 

Dramatically enhancing human 
capabilities for good, alas, also means 
enhancing human capabilities for 
evil. That's something famed com- 
puter science professor and writer 
Vernor Vinge warns about: technol- 
ogy that could, as he wrote in his 
novel Rainbows End, "put world-killer 
weapons into the hands of anyone 
having a bad-hair day." Then there's 
the mind-control problem. Nano- 
robots floating around in your blood- 
stream could keep your coronary 
arteries from clogging, but they also 
could release drugs on command, 
making you, say, literally love Big 
Brother. Knowing what we know 
about human history, do such abuses 
seem terribly unlikely? 

Of course, the problem may never 
come up. Vinge, who originated the 
Singularity idea, has written about 
why it may never arrive — though he's 



betting the other way. So what can we 
do now to affect how things turn out? 
Some people are trying. The Foresight 
Institute has published guidelines for 
developing nanotechnology, such as 
a ban on self-replicating nanobots 
that function independently (poten- 
tially turning the whole world into 
more nanobots, something known in 
the trade as the gray-goo problem) 
and sharp limitations on weapons- 
related nanotech research. Research- 
ers in artificial intelligence are work- 
ing on guidelines for producing 
"friendly AI" that would be well- 
disposed toward humans as part of 
their programming, thus foreclosing 
any pesky robotic world-domination 
ambitions. NASA, Google and others 
have even started something called 
the Singularity University to study 
ways to avoid problems while still 
reaping the benefits. Some have sug- 
gested that we ought to go slow on the 
so-called GRAIN technologies (Genet- 
ics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence 
and Nanotechnology). Sun Microsys- 
tems' Bill Joy has even called for 
"relinquishing" some technologies 
he sees as dangerous. 

But I wonder if that's such a good 
idea. Destructive technologies gener- 
ally seem to come along sooner than 
constructive ones — we got war rockets 
before missile interceptors, and bio- 
logical warfare before antibiotics. This 
suggests that there will be a window of 
vulnerability between the time when 
we develop technologies that can do 
dangerous things, and the time when 
we can protect against those dangers. 
The slower we move, the longer that 
window may remain open, leaving 
more time for the evil, the unscrupu- 
lous or the careless to wreak havoc. My 
conclusion? Faster, please. pm 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 71 



PAGE 72 
POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



ANATOMY OF A 



PLANE CRASH 



THE AVIATION INDUSTRY'S SAFETY RECORD HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER, 
BUT THE MYSTERIOUS LOSS OF AN AIRLINER IS CHALLENGING 
EFFORTS TO PREVENT TRAGEDIES BEFORE THEY HAPPEN. 



BY JEFF WISE 

INFOGRAPHIC BY AXEL DE ROY 





On May 31, at 7:30 
pm, Air France 447 
leaves Rio de Janeiro 



?£ AF 447 contacts air < 
-^ controllers in 



on an 11-hour flight to >< Recife, Brazil. 

Paris. After 3 hours in 

the air, the Airbus 

330 plunges into a 

wall of towering storm 

clouds looming 

350 miles off the 

Brazilian coast. The 

airplane— with 216 

passengers and 

12 crew members 

onboard— never 

emerges. 



\ AF 447 passes 
over the city of 
Natal, on the 
Atlantic coast. 



#* /Crash 
Site 

r Rio de Janeiro 



SEVEN MILES ABOVE THE EMPTY EXPANSE OF THE SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN, 

on May 31, 2009, an Air France A330 passenger jet cut through the midnight darkness. The plane 
had taken off 3 hours earlier, climbing from Rio de Janeiro on a northeast heading, its navigation 
computers hewing to a great-circle route that would take the flight 5680 miles to Paris. 

At 10:35 pm local time, one of the co-pilots on the flight deck radioed Atlantico Area Con- 
trol Center in Recife, Brazil, and announced that the plane had just reached a navigation way- 
point called INTOL, situated 350 miles off the Brazilian coast. The waypoint lay just shy of the 
Intertropical Convergence Zone, a meteorological region along the equator famous for intense 



45,000 feet 
40,000 feet 




AF 447 radios 
final verbal 
message (to 
Atlantico Area 
Control Center): 
"Air France 
Four Four Seven 
thank you." 



An automatic messaging 
system onboard AF 447 
transmits a torrent of 
text messages via 
satellite to the airline's 
headquarters in Paris. 
The 24 encoded texts, 
reported in just 4 
minutes, provide clues 
about the flight's final 
moments. 



11:10 pm 



The flight control 
computer receives 
unreliable sensor 
data; in response, 
autopilot 
disconnects. 



11:11-11:12 pm 

I Speed-limit 
settings shut down. 
Safeguards that 
help pilots prevent 
rudder damage 
now fail. 



| 11:13-11:14 pm | 

Loss of backup 
instruments that 
measure pitch angle 
and velocity. Loss of 
all internal reference, 
including heading, 
vertical speed, 
flight-path vector and | 
position. Last 
transmission: a 
vertical speed 
advisory, triggered 
when the cabin drops | 
faster than 30 feet 
per second. 



PAGE 74 



DECEMBER 2009 



ANATOMY OF A PLANE CRASH 



A search party 
from the Brazilian 
navy recovers 
the largest physi- 
cal clue in the 
Air France 447 
mystery: the tail 
fin, which likely 
broke off the 
airplane when it 
hit the water. 



thunderstorms. Staff at Atlantico acknowledged the trans- 
mission and received the airplane's reply: "Air France Four 
Four Seven, thank you." 

It was the second time within the past 12 hours that the jet, 
F-GZCP, had crossed this stretch of ocean, having flown the 
Paris-to-Rio leg with only 2 hours to refuel and load passengers 
before departing again. Such was the lot of the four-year-old 
long-haul plane: a repeated cycle of flight and turnaround, as 
rhythmic and uneventful as the phases of the moon. But the 
routine was about to be broken. 

After receiving AF 447's transmission, Atlantico asked for 
the estimated time it would take the aircraft to reach the TASIL 
waypoint, which lies on the boundary of the Atlantico and the 
Dakar Oceanic control areas. At that point communication 
would pass from Brazil to Senegal. AF 447 did not reply. The 
controller asked again. Still, there was no reply. The controller 
asked a third and fourth time, then alerted other control cen- 
ters about the lapse. 

According to the flight plan filed by AF 447, the plane should 
have crossed into Dakar Oceanic at 11:20 pm, at which point 
the flight crew would have made radio contact with Dakar to 
confirm their position. They didn't. They also failed to contact 
the Cape Verde controller, whose airspace they were supposed 
to enter at 12:43 am. As time went on, controllers along the air- 
craft's route began to worry that the problem was more than 
just a communications breakdown. 

By 3:47 am, the flight should have appeared on the radar 
screens of Portuguese air traffic controllers. It didn't. An hour 
later, Air France contacted the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses 




pour la Securite de l'Aviation Civile 
(BEA), the French equivalent of the 
United States' National Transportation 
Safety Board. By 8 am, French authori- 
ties officially reached what had become 
a grim, unavoidable conclusion: Air 
France 447 had disappeared. 



VANISHING WITHOUT A TRACE 

is not supposed to happen in this day 
and age. The globe is crisscrossed by 
constant ship and air traffic. A constella- 
tion of satellites orbits overhead, and 
communication is nonstop. Yet, for a 
few days in early June, it seemed that the 
impossible had happened. Air France 
447 and the 228 people onboard were 
simply gone. There was no distress call 
or wreckage; there were no bodies. 

Within hours, the French govern- 
ment deployed a search-and-rescue 
airplane near the TASIL waypoint. Over 
the next few days a flotilla of ships 
and aircraft arrived to assist the search 
operation, including a French nuclear 
submarine and a research vessel with 
an unmanned deep-water submersible 
that were dispatched to 
find the flight data recorder, 
or black box. 

Yet for days nothing was 
found. The only clues to 
the plane's fate were auto- 
matic messages that the 
onboard maintenance com- 
puter transmitted by a 
datalink system called the 
Aircraft Communications 
Addressing and Reporting 
System (ACARS). The sys- 
tem transmits text mes- 
sages via satellite to ground 
stations, which then for- 
ward them on landlines to 
the intended destination. In 
just a 4-minute span, the 
system had broadcast 24 
reports to Air France's dis- 
patch center in Paris, each 
concerning problems with 



BUILDING A SAFER 



RPO 




July 2000 



u 



AT 2:42 PM ON JULY 25, 2000, Air France 4590 roared down 
runway 26R at Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, 
bound for New York with 109 passengers and crew onboard. As 
the supersonic jet accelerated for takeoff, it ran over a 17-inch-long 
strip of titanium that had fallen off the thrust reverserof a recently 
departed DC-10. The metal shredded one of the Concorde's tires, 
and the flying pieces ruptured and ignited a fuel tank. The plane 
crashed 2 minutes later, killing all onboard and four people on the 
ground. Investigators found the runway was unchecked for 
12 hours before the crash. The accident highlighted a paradox: 
Some of the worst threats to aviation, including debris, vehicles 
and other aircraft, are located on the ground. 



1. Broadcast Tower 

"me FAA's Airport Surface Detection Equipment-X 
integrates data from an inbound plane's GPS 
unit and the transponder signals from ground 
vehicles and other planes in the air to generate a 
continuously updated map of all airport traffic. 
Remote towers capture and relay information 
from airplanes in flight. ASDE-X, which alerts air 
traffic controllers to an impending conflict, is 
already in use at 20 U.S. airports; the FAA plans 
to install it in 15 more by 2011. 



2. Cockpit Digital Maps 

Paper maps keep pilots out of 
trouble, but they need to be 
updated regularly. Digital maps 
of airports and the surrounding 
areas are more easily amended 
to include new obstacles and 
infrastructure. Pilots carry 
laptop-size computers called 
Electronic Flight Bags that plug 
into the cockpit navigation 
system. New EFBs alert users to 
update maps using Wi-Fi. 



3. High-Frequency Radar 

Detectors use sensitive radar with 
wavelengths as tight as a 
millimeter to spot debris as small 
as a bolt that could cause crashes; 
some systems have cameras that 
compare images to a database of 
common objects, distinguishing 
grass or paper from more 
dangerous obstacles. 

4. Runway Status Lights 

Modern versions of runway 
lights— which guide pilots, 
particularly at night or in bad 
weather— act like traffic lights: 
Red means a runway is in use; 
green means a runway is clear for 
takeoff, landing or crossing. 




BUILDING A SAFER 



DCKP 



NORTHWEST 255 had just taken off from Detroit on Aug. 16, 1987, when it began 
rocking side to side. The plane clipped a building and caught fire before sliding under a 
railroad embankment and two highway overpasses (right). The crash, which killed all 154 
onboard and two bystanders, occurred because the MD-82 s pilots did not extend slats 
on the leading edge and flaps on the trailing edge of the wings to generate extra lift. The 
manufacturer recommended that airlines modify their MD-80 cockpit checklists; U.S. 
carriers did so, but not all foreign carriers. In 2008 a Spanair MD-82 crashed in Madrid 
because of a similar mistake, killing 154— showing that failure to modify procedures in 
response to crashes, close calls and government advisories can cost lives. Here are 
other changes in the cockpit that reduce chance of pilot error. — mark huber 



^m 



-» — - ^^m 






1. Make Two-Person 
Altitude Calls 

To prevent planes from 
dropping below assigned 
altitudes— which increases the 
risk of midair collisions— the 
co-pilot sets the altitude, called 
"pointing," and the pilot 
confirms that it is correct. 



2. Retract Speed Brakes 

Failing to retract speed 
brakes— panels that increase 
wing-surface area— in an 
aborted landing means an 
aircraft can't climb quickly. Many 
airlines require co-pilots to 
verify speed-brake status if the 
plane misses a landing. 



3. Know Speed Limits 

Flaps, which are extended to 
allow airplanes to remain aloft 
at slower speeds during takeoff 
and landing, can suffer motor 
damage if they are deployed 
while the airplane is traveling 
too fast. In addition to memoriz- 
ing these speed limits, co-pilots 
at some airlines are required to 
call them out as the airplane 
prepares to land. 



4. Confirm Spoiler 
Deployment 

Like speed brakes, spoilers are 
wing surfaces that diminish lift 
and are needed during landing, 
when an airplane must quickly 
shed speed. It is the co-pilot's 
job to confirm that spoilers 
have been deployed during a 
landing to prevent the plane 
from overshooting the runway. 




Enhanced and synthetic vision systems (left) blend GPS information with a topographical database to create a 
moving digital map of unseen terrain and hazards. 



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ANATOMY OF A PLANE CRASH 



subsystems onboard the aircraft. 

At 11:10 pm, about 35 minutes after 
AF 447's last verbal communication, 
the system sent a message that the auto- 
pilot had disconnected. Seconds later, 
it reported that the flight control system 
was unable to determine the aircraft's 
correct speed. Subsequent messages 
cited a cascade of other malfunctions. 
At 11:14 pm, the final message reported 
that the airliner's cabin either had 
depressurized, was moving with high 
vertical velocity, or both. 

ACARS messages are transmitted in 
a dense alphanumeric code and are 
used for airplane maintenance, not real- 
time monitoring of flights by dispatch 
centers. When investigators realized 
that the plane was lost, they scrutinized 
the messages. The story the transmis- 
sions told was tantalizing, but inconclu- 
sive. Did the error messages suggest a 
fault in the sensors, or was the flight 
management system somehow fatally 
corrupted — perhaps because of a midair 
lightning strike? 

The absence of clues causes con- 
cerns that reach beyond the AF 447 
investigation. Was the crash a result of 
pilot error, an unexpected breakdown of 
vital equipment or a combination of 
both? Without answers, there is no way 
to guarantee that another airliner won't 
suffer the same fate. 



ALL THE ATTENTION GIVEN TO A 

crash like Air France 447's can obscure 
an important truth: Commercial air 
travel is incredibly safe — and getting 
safer. In 2008, the U.S. fatality rate was 
fewer than one death per nearly 11 mil- 
lion passenger trips. This impressive 
record is the result of more than a cen- 
tury of incremental improvements that 
have been amassed through painstak- 
ing forensic analysis. 

After each plane crash, investigators 
study the wreckage, analyze flight data 
and examine clues regarding flight con- 
ditions. Once they have determined a 



cause, they often help create recommendations that prevent 
the problem from recurring. 

The FAA is determined to cut the already minuscule airliner 
fatality rate in half by 2025. With this in mind, the agency 
recently developed a new approach to make safety improve- 
ments. In 2007, it began working with airlines to sift through 
the masses of data that planes record about their normal flight 
operations, looking for safety improvements that could pre- 
empt accidents before they happen, instead of learning these 
lessons after a plane crash occurs. 

The sophistication of aircraft makes this strategy possible. 
Modern planes are studded with environmental sensors that 
record flight conditions, while other sensors constantly assess 
the health of the airplane's subsystems. This information is fed 
to a central computer, forming a network that resembles the 
neural system of a primitive organism. At the end of each flight, 
maintenance crews can easily download the data for analysis. 
Airlines have been using this information to improve their 
safety performance since the early '90s, but two years ago the 
FAA began collecting these records as part of its Aviation Safety 
Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) system. 

This year, the FAA opened the Accident Investigation and 
Prevention Service to scrutinize the ASIAS data. "We're having 
many fewer accidents, but the ones we do have are being 
caused by threats that are much harder to detect," says Jay 
Pardee, the director of the new office. As an example of the kind 
of problem that ASIAS data could prevent, consider Comair 
Flight 5191, which was scheduled to take off from Lexington, 
Ky., in August 2006. Thinking they were on 7000-foot Runway 
22, the pilots failed to get their aircraft airborne before they ran 
out of asphalt on the runway they were actually on — 3500-foot 
Runway 26. The airplane's wheels clipped an airport perimeter 
fence and the plane plowed into a grove of trees 1800 feet from 
the end of the runway. All 47 passengers and two of three crew 
members were killed. After the accident, the FAA reviewed 25 
years of data and discovered that 80 commercial aircraft 
around the country had either taken off or tried to take off from 
incorrect runways. "Nobody connected the dots," Pardee says. 

Following the AF 447 disappearance, other Airbus 330 
operators studied their internal flight records to seek patterns. 
Delta, analyzing the data of Northwest Airlines flights that 
occurred before the two companies merged, found a dozen 
incidents in which at least one of an A330's airspeed 
indicators — 4-inch-long, pressure-sensing pitot tubes located 
on the fuselage under the cockpit — had briefly stopped work- 
ing. Each time, the flights had been traveling through the 
Intertropical Convergence Zone, the same location where Air 
France 447 disappeared. 

In the case of the Northwest A3 30s, the pitot tube malfunc- 
tions had been brief and harmless. But what if a severe version 
of the problem had struck Air France 447 amid more unforgiv- 
ing circumstances? 




We're I 
having 
manyrewer 
accidents, 
but the ones 
we do have 
are being 
caused by 
threats that 
are much 
harder to 
detect," says 
Jay Pardee, 
the director 
oftheFAAs 
new Accident 
Investigation 
and 

Prevention 
Service. 



From the way 

the floor 

of the 

crew's rest 

compartment 

haabuckled, 

French 

investigators 

determined 

that the 

fuselage hit 

the water 

more or 

less intact, 

belly first, at 

a high rate 

ofvertical 

speed. 



BUILDING A SAFER 



AIRFRA] 



AT LAST, ON JUNE 6, THE MULTINATIONAL SEARCH 

effort began to find evidence of the crash. The Brazilian mili- 
tary recovered bodies and debris floating approximately 
40 miles north of the last automatic Aircraft Communications 
transmission. Over the next two weeks, search vessels retrieved 
51 corpses from a stretch of ocean 150 miles wide, along with 
bits of wreckage — a section of the radome, a toilet compart- 
ment, part of a galley — that collectively added up to less than 
5 percent of the aircraft. The largest single piece was the tail 
fin, marked with the distinctive blue and red stripes of the 
French national carrier. 

The most important piece of the wreckage, however, 
remained missing. More than a month after the plane went 
down, despite the joint efforts of the French and U.S. navies, 
the black box still hadn't been found. Given the huge search 
area, the ruggedness of the undersea terrain and the depth of 
the water (up to 15,000 feet), locating the recorder, let alone 
retrieving it, was proving to be an enormous task. Once the 
unit's acoustic pinger passed its 30-day certified life span, the 
chances of recovering the black box became virtually nil. 

Without the box's data, the only physical evidence of the 
airplane available to investigators was the mangled wreckage. 
From the way it had been deformed — in particular, the way the 
floor of the crew's rest compartment had buckled upward — 
French investigators determined that the fuselage hit the water 
more or less intact, belly first, at a high rate ofvertical speed. 
Added to the ACARS messages and the satellite weather data, 
the evidence began to conform to a possible scenario. 

By 10:45 pm, 10 minutes after the last radio transmission, 
the plane hit the first, small storm cell in the Intertropical Con- 
vergence Zone. Fifteen minutes later, it hit a larger, fast- 
growing system. And then, just before its last ACARS transmis- 
sions, the plane hit a whopper, a multicell storm whose roiling 
thermal energy rose more than 3 miles higher than AF 447's 
altitude. Buffeted by turbulence, near the heart of a strong 
thunderstorm, the pitot tubes froze over. Lacking reliable 
speed indicators, the airplane's computerized Flight Manage- 
ment System automatically disengaged the autopilot, forcing 
the co-pilots to fly the airplane manually. 

Without autopilot, the pilots had no envelope protection 
restrictions, which are designed to keep the pilot from making 
control inputs that could overstress the aircraft. This is par- 
ticularly dangerous for airliners at high altitudes. The thin air 
demands that airplanes fly faster to achieve lift, but they still 
must remain below speed limits. Flying too fast can create a 
phenomenon known as mach tuck, when supersonic shock 
waves along the wings shift the aircraft's center of pressure aft 




and can make it pitch into an uncon- 
trollable nose-dive. Flying too slow can 
cause a plane to stall. 

AF 447's flight crew, disoriented in 
the storm, uncertain about their speed 
and buffeted by turbulence, could eas- 
ily have taken the A3 30 outside its flight 
envelope. "The fact that they didn't 
transmit a mayday would seem to indi- 
cate that whatever happened to them 
happened quickly," says William Wal- 
dock, a professor of safety science 
at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univer- 
sity in Arizona. 



WITHOUT MORE DATA, THIS KIND 

of scenario can never be verified com- 
pletely. But the global aviation commu- 
nity has already taken steps to prevent 
another accident like AF 447. Within 
days, Air France replaced pitot tubes on 
its Airbus planes with ones made by 
another company, and in July Airbus 



PASSENGERS USUALLY FEEL RELIEF when their plane touches 
down. But those peering out the windows of Colgan 3268 this 
May were horrified to see a wheel rolling away from their airplane 
during an otherwise routine landing. The end of an axle in a wheel 
bearing snapped as the Q400 Bombardier screeched across the 
runway— and as a passenger shot a cellphone video (left) of the 
chilling event. The airplane safely landed on its remaining tires. 



Investigators found that the wheel bearing failed after it overheat- 
ed during the landing. Wheel bearings arejust a few of thousands 
of parts that endure the stress of repeated takeoffs, flights and 
landings. Maintainers and designers constantly adopt new 
materials and inspection devices to prevent heavily stressed parts 
of planes from failing during flights. 



1. Wheel Bearings 

Wheel bearings support the 
entire weight of the aircraft 
on a surface area of a few 
square inches, and during a 
landing they accelerate from 

to 2000 rpm in less than 

1 second. Ball bearings made 
from new ceramic formulas can 
better resist the temperature 
changes and physical stresses 
of these conditions. 

2. Wing Spars 

Stress on the wing is borne by 
the spars. Boeing's 787 
Dreamliner is the first civilian 
airplane to use carbon compos- 
ites to form spars, but designers 
added extra metal fasteners to 
stiffen the wings after tests 
showed they couldn't handle the 
FAA's maximum aerodynamic 
load limits. As with other 
composite parts, crews use 
ultrasound to seek early signs of 



failure. Resin-filled nano- 
structures embedded in the 
material could patch cracks as 
soon as they form. 

3. Wing Skin 

Wings endure high pressures 
while generating lift; stress on 
the wings' metal skin tends to 





peak in areas where the wing 
connects to the fuselage. Wing 
skin is installed in panels held 
together with fasteners. Every 
hole or deformation that 
interrupts the skin makes it 
more susceptible to cracking, 
so maintenance crews inspect 
areas around the fasteners with 
ultrasound equipment for signs 
of weakness. Researchers at 
Sandia National Laboratories 
are designing paper-thin 
pressure sensors that 
continually monitor for cracks. 

4. Fuselage Skin 

Aluminum fuselages are built 
to handle changes caused by 
cabin pressurization— which 
inflates and deflates the body 
of an airliner as much as a 
quarter of an inch— but tension 
stress still spreads across the 
entire fuselage. Windows, 
doors and rivet holes magnify 



this stress. Engineers under- 
stand metal fatigue, but new 
materials like carbon compos- 
ites pose unique safety issues. 
Maintenance workers use 
ultrasound and other non- 
invasive scanners to find 
deformations and fractures 
inside composite materials. 




advised other airlines to do the same. 
Three months later the FAA turned the 
recommendation into a regulation. 

To be sure, the pitot tubes are not the 
definitive cause of the crash. Even if they 
had failed, that alone should not have 
been enough to bring down an airliner. 
As in virtually every fatal air crash, what 
doomed AF 447 was not a single mal- 
function or error of judgment, but rather 
a sequence of missteps that crash inves- 
tigators call the accident chain. "There's 
always a series of events," the FAA's 
Pardee says. "That means there are mul- 
tiple opportunities to intervene and 
break that accident chain." 

In the case of AF 447, the error chain 
included the co-pilots' decision to fly too 
close to severe thunderstorms — bad 
weather that several other pilots, flying 
similar routes that night, had chosen to 
give a wide berth. There were certainly 
other links in the accident chain that 
pushed AF 447 beyond its limits. But 
unless the black box is found, we may 



never identify those links. And that means safety officials might 
never learn the full lessons of the disaster. To prevent a similar 
loss of forensic evidence, executives at Airbus say they are now 
studying alternatives to physical black boxes. It is feasible to 
create a system that could broadcast not only text messages 
like ACARS but comprehensive data about the status of every 
aircraft, in real time. The aircraft would continuously transmit 
data to VHF stations within a radius of 125 miles, or by satellite 
if the plane is farther away. 

Airliners in flight could one day stream all sorts of high- 
speed data, sharing information directly with one another. "It 
would be a network in the sky," says Bob Smith, chief technol- 
ogy officer at Honeywell, which manufactured AF 447's ACARS. 
"Aircraft could pass not only information about their location 
and where they're headed," he says, "but whole data sets. An 
airliner over Seattle could send its weather radar picture to a 
plane inbound from Dallas. And the guy from Dallas could pass 
it along to five other aircraft." Military aircraft already use a 
similar system; it is not clear if civil aviation will adopt it. 

The disquieting truth is that we don't really know precisely 
what happened to Air France 447, and perhaps never will. The 
same links in the accident chain could someday take down 
another unlucky airliner. If they do, improved technology 
might provide investigators with the data they need to make 
sure that the next time is the last time. pm 




SO YOU WANT TO BUY A 



Netbook 



The netbook formula is simple: Take one ordinary notebook, strip out some of 
its processing power, shrink its size by a little and reduce the price tag by a lot. And 
while early models lacked the ability to handle anything much more demanding 
than a Web page or a text document, new netbooks cram performance once 
reserved for full-size laptops into 2-pound packages costing around $250 to $500. 
These machines aren't designed to serve as your primary PC, but they are ideal as 
low-cost, low-mass secondary systems for carrying on a plane or around the house. 



^ 



A. Operating 
System 



Microsoft's 8-year-old Windows XP has found a second wind powering low-cost net- 
books, and the new Windows 7 was designed with netbooks in mind. Just avoid 
Windows Vista if you can— the bloated OS can overwhelm netbooks' low-power pro- 
cessors. Open-source devotees may also opt for a Linux netbook, although these are 
becoming less common. And sorry, Apple fans: no Mac netbooks just yet. 




C. Central Processing Unit 



B. Keyboard 



Although some newer models cram in full-size key- 
boards, the small size of most netbooks necessitates a 
shrunken typing space— usually 10 to 20 percent 
smaller— which can cause discomfort for people used 
to larger layouts. Be sure to test out any keyboard 
before you buy to make sure you find it comfortable. 



The most common netbook configurations currently 
involve 1.3- and 1.6-GHz versions of Intel's power- 
efficient Atom processor. This is plenty of power for 
the simple applications netbooks are designed for, but 
future models will see faster speeds. And competitors 
such as Nvidia now offer netbook-targeted chipsets 
that aim to offer superior graphical performance. Most 
users should avoid anything slower than 1 GHz. 



What about 

those 

subsidized 

netbooks? 



Most of the major wireless carriers now sell dirt-cheap subsidized 
netbooks (they typically go for about $200, though we've seen them 
sell for basically nothing during promotions). The catch: The 
machines come with long-term contracts for expensive mobile data 
plans — typically $40 to $60 per month, on top of your other phone and 
Internet bills. Meaning that an almost-free netbook can suddenly cost 
an extra $1400 over a two-year contract. Our advice: If you want 
take-anywhere 3G network access, stick to a separate 3G modem. The 
monthly fees will be the same, and it won't be tied to one computer. 



D. Screen 

Most netbooks have 
either 8- or 10-inch 
screens, although some 
are as large as 12 inches 
(anything more is a 
full-fledged notebook) or 
as small as seven. Set- 
tling on a screen size is 
a balancing act: Large 
displays are easier to 
read, but they cost more, 
and hurt portability and 
battery life. 




• E. Wireless 
Connectivity 

Expect built-in Bluetooth 
and Wi-Fi (card pictured), 
although many netbooks 
can't take advantage of 
faster 802. lln Wi-Fi 
speed. Some netbooks 
also have optional inte- 
grated 3G network con- 
nections—a potentially 
appealing proposition 
considering the devices' 
take-anywhere size. 
Expect to pay an addi- 
tional $40 to $60 per 
month for the service. 

F. Card 
Reader 

Most netbooks favor SD 
memory-card slots over 
space-consuming optical 
drives (which are usually 
offered as an add-on 
external accessory). 
These slots make it easy 
to upload just-shot digital 
photos. Larger 16 and 
32 GB SD cards allow for 
expandable memory. 

G. Battery 

Netbooks have smaller 
screens and less power- 
ful processors than full- 
size laptops— and bat- 
tery life benefits. Some 
models claim 12 hours 
per charge, but anything 
more than four is excel- 
lent. To stay slim, many 
netbooks use batteries 
that protrude from the 
machine's rear. 



H. RAM 



The more random-access memory (RAM) a netbook 
has, the better it will be able to handle heavy-duty 
applications. Top-shelf netbooks currently come with 
up to 2 GB of DDR2 SDRAM, but 1 GB is enough for 
most applications (it's also the minimum amount of 
RAM required to run Windows 7). 



Netbooks usually have fewer USB ports than full-size 
notebooks— typically one to three. One useful feature 
to look out for: Some models allow users to charge 
other gadgets through a USB port, even while the net- 
book is in sleep mode— so you can charge a phone or 
MP3 player while the computer is stashed in a bag. 



If you plan on storing a 
large library of media, 
opt for the largest hard 
drive you can afford— 
current netbook models 
have 250 GB or more of 
storage. But if you just 
want a netbook for surf- 
ing the Web and writing 
documents, solid-state 
drives, which hold less 
data but are more dura- 
ble and potentially faster, 
may be preferable, pm 



RUN 



SILENT, 



HUMANS HAVE LONG EXPLORED THE OCEAN AT A DIRIGIBLE'S PA: 
GRAHAM HAWKES PLANS TO CHANGE THAT WITH A SUB THAT FLIES. 





on. For the past two days I've strolled do 
te pier at dawn, just as the fog begins to r 
Monterey Bay, to watch as crewmen peel ba< 
a collapsible garage to reveal the winged sub- 
mersible and prepare it for the water. But the 
Super Falcon's rigorous workout has finally 
caught up with it. On their first dive, Graham 
Hawkes, the sub's designer, and pilot trainee Lee 
Behel inadvertently tested its ability to navigate 
kelp beds. The vessel had to be cut free of the 
stalks by a safety diver. Then, they pushed its lim- 
its with "upset" maneuvers — near vertical dives 
and 90-degree rolls — that resulted in a busted 
prop and broken rudder. "The whole idea was to 
find any weak points, and we did," Hawkes said 
as he replaced plastic rudder fittings with stron- 
ger metal components. "This was a good thing." 
Still, it meant that Hawkes had to drive 250 
miles round-trip from Monterey, Calif., to his 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 83 













J L L L A 


PHOTOGRAPH BY CHUCK DAVIS 

The Super Falcon submersible uses its inverted wings to move 
through water like a plane through air. 




o 
s 




u 
in 

< 
> 

PQ 



A. Cockpit 
Flight Controls 

workshop north of San Fran- 
cisco to get new prop blades — an 
errand that took until 3 am. But 
because today's my day to get 
behind the controls, I'm all for 
getting the submersible in top 
working order. 

Like Behel, I'm here at the 
Coast Guard pier in Monterey for 
flight school — a training course 
for prospective Super Falcon 
pilots. Behel has a bit more flight 
experience than me, however: 
He used to fly F-4 Phantom jet 
fighters for the military. It's not 
surprising that he was drawn to 
the Super Falcon, since the two 
craft share many of the same 
design principles. Long and 
thin, with a tapered nose, the 
Super Falcon has rear horizontal 
stabilizers, two large tail rudders 
and dual acrylic cockpit cano- 
pies. It also has inverted wings, 
which turn the aeronautic con- 
cept of lift upside down, allowing the sub to literally 
fly through the water. Whereas conventional subs 
rely on ballast, the Super Falcon descends as for- 
ward speed creates a pressure differential between 
the top and bottom of the wings. Free of ballast, the 
sub is positively buoyant, which dramatically 
increases safety. Lose power and the vessel auto- 
matically floats to the surface. 

Once the Super Falcon has been repaired, the 
crew hitches a custom-built trailer to the back of a 
Toyota Land Cruiser and I climb into the sub's rear 
cockpit. Hawkes goes over the controls and life- 
support systems with me, then climbs into the front. 
As the acrylic canopies descend over our heads, the 
world outside goes eerily silent. All I hear is the 
intercom chatter between Hawkes and dive supervi- 
sor Dirk Rosen. Then, a slight jolt. The SUV shifts 
into reverse and slowly backs us into the water. 



CHALLENGER DEEP 

Graham Hawkes is to ocean exploration what Burt 
Rutan is to private space travel — a relentless inno- 
vator who challenges the accepted wisdom in his 
field by inventing around it. He began his career 
in the 1960s as a civilian ocean engineer, working 
on underwater vehicles for the British Special 
Forces. For the next two decades, he designed sub- 
mersibles for the oil industry and for scientific 
research. Some of those vessels found their way 
into movies. Hawkes piloted one, the Mantis, in 
the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only — right into the 
side of James Bond's rig (at the director's insis- 




A. 

The Super Falcon 
has fingertip 
fly-by-wire controls 
for pitch, roll and 
yaw. A digital 
heads-up display 
combines 
navigation and vital 
dive data. 



Conventional subs 
require circular or 
spherical hulls to 
withstand water 
pressure, "me Super 
Falcon uses a 
custom isotropic 
glass-resin matrix 
composite that can 
be shaped to 
accommodate the 
human body. 



A set of inverted 
wings allows the 
sub to "fly" through 
the water and dive 
without ballast. 
When on land, the 
wings can fold up 
for easy transport. 



Powered by 24 
4-volt lithium- 
phosphate 
batteries, the 7-hp 
electric motor is 
mated to a 
24-inch-diameter 
prop that 
generates 508 
pounds of thrust. 



tence). Two of his bubble-hulled Deep Rover subs 
were used by James Cameron for his Aliens of the 
Deep documentary. 

But after launching the first Deep Rover, Hawkes 
had a nagging feeling. "I remember sitting on a rock 
in Halifax Harbor thinking, we can do better than 
this," he says. While aviation advanced swiftly and 
consistently over the past century — yielding highly 
maneuverable craft that can fly faster than the speed 
of sound — progress on undersea vehicles had been 
slow. As a result, submersibles still worked like the 
aquatic equivalent of hot air balloons, creeping 
around the oceans at the pace of a jellyfish. 

Hawkes wanted to explore the concept of moving 
more efficiently through the ocean and create a sub 
that would grant unprecedented access to everyone 
from tourists and legislators to marine biologists. 
Soaring underwater, he decided, would take wings, 
and so he founded Hawkes Ocean Technologies 
(HOT), a skunkworks dedicated to building the 
Deep Flight family of winged submersibles. The 
prototypes began to take shape at HOT's research 
facility, based at a marina in Richmond, Calif. 

The Super Falcon, the fourth in the series, has its 
roots in one of the most ambitious undersea explora- 
tory missions in modern history. In 2005, Hawkes 
teamed up with adventurer Steve Fossett to create a 
sub that could be piloted to the deepest part of the 
ocean — a spot in the Pacific named Challenger 
Deep, 36,201 feet below the surface. Fossett agreed 
to fund the sub, named Deep Flight Challenger, in 
hopes of setting the world record for a solo dive. But 
two years into the project, he plummeted from the 



84 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



sky over Nevada in his single-engine Bellanca Super 
Decathlon. Ownership of the Challenger passed to 
Fossett's estate when he died. But the technology 
developed for the Challenger still belonged to HOT. 
As it happened, Hawkes got the opportunity to 
use that technology twice more: He was midway 
through constructing his own Super Falcon when 
venture capitalist Tom Perkins contracted him to 
build a submersible that could operate from his 
Maltese Falcon, one of the largest sailing yachts in 
the world. One Super Falcon was delivered to Per- 
kins in November 2008; the other Hawkes finished 
and kept. The subs diverged from the Challenger in 
two significant ways: They carried two people 
upright, as opposed to one prone. And to avoid the 
extreme cost of building a hull 
to handle great depth, the team 
used a much cheaper and easier- 
to-fabricate composite of their 
own design, called Sea Glass 11. 
The Super Falcon is rated to a 
depth of 1000 feet, but future 
iterations can be designed to go 
as deep as desired, and plans for 
such subs are already under way. 



200 

feet per minute dive 



400 

'eet per mmute ascen 

508 

pounds ol 'thrust 

1.5 

million ,: 



TEST FLIGHT 

The inside of the Super Falcon is 
tight, but comfortable enough. 
Seating is recumbent, and my 
legs straddle a carbon-dioxide 
scrubber that, along with an oxy- 
gen control at my right shoulder, 
keeps air in the pressurized hull 
breathable. Each of the two in- 
line piloting positions has a full set of controls — 
the throttle is to the left, and on the right is a finger- 
tip fly- by-wire joystick — but Hawkes, in the front 
position, has the master controls. Our eyes are just 
level with the chop as we cruise away from the 
launch; then Hawkes takes us down and we are 
enveloped by murky green water. Away from the 
waves and weekend boaters, the underwater atmo- 
sphere is peaceful, and for a moment it feels as if 
we are floating motionless. 

Hawkes coaches me on how to read the heads- 
up display — which has an artificial horizon similar 
to an airplane's instrument panel — then gives me 
control. Piloting the sub by joystick is as intuitive as 
a video game, but orienting myself in the watery 
gloom is difficult and Hawkes warns me that I'm 
listing to the right. I correct the trim, then glide us 
gently back to the surface, where Hawkes takes the 
controls and puts my gentle wobbling in the water 
into perspective. He takes us down abruptly, 
descending so steeply it's disconcerting. The water 
around us goes quickly from blue to dark green 
and, finally, to brown as we reach 50 feet. 




Graham 
Hawkes at 
Hawkes Ocean 
Technologies 
workshop in 
Richmond, 
Calif. The 
Super Falcon 
is the first 
production- 
ready winged 
submersible. 




We could, in theory, be down here awhile. The 
Super Falcon has a 29-mile range and can run 
5 hours between battery charges. Its top speed is 
12 mph — not fast by land-speed standards, but 
positively sports-car-like for submersibles. It can 
glide and bank like a dolphin, even, Hawkes sus- 
pects, perform barrel rolls — though I was sadly not 
the guinea pig for that maneuver. 

The Super Falcon's ability to move like marine 
animals — and keep up with them — makes it valu- 
able for everything from ecotourism to scientific 
research. "Nobody has had a sub that can go that 
fast," says John McCosker, chair of aquatic biology 
at the California Academy of Sciences. McCosker 
would like to use the Super Falcon to follow white 
sharks. "It could help us get a bet- 
ter understanding of how they 
track prey prior to attack," he 
says. "Plus, there may be behav- 
iors we don't even know about 
that we could only see by hanging 
out with these animals." 

But getting the Super Falcon 
close to sea creatures is more 
than a matter of speed. Hawkes 
worked to minimize the sub's 
electrical field — sharks, for 
instance, have electroreceptors 
that can detect even minute 
disturbances — and make it hum 
along as quietly as possible. He 
also kept lighting to a minimum. 
The bright lights used on con- 
ventional subs, while necessary 
for some jobs, can scare away 
marine life. "If weapons-grade emissions are com- 
ing from the lights," Hawkes says, "you're only 
going to see the stuff that's deaf, dumb and blind." 
Eventually, the team hopes to add a range of 
advanced technologies to the Super Falcon — sonar 
to detect obstacles, hydrophones to hear animals or 
boats before surfacing, and low-light cameras. The 
Super Falcon's wings are already fitted with lasers 
that can alert the pilot to obstructions a hundred 
feet or more ahead. Future subs may also have addi- 
tional thrusters for hovering, as well as a robotic 
arm to collect scientific samples. 

In the dark water, I try toggling on the Super Fal- 
con's lasers, but Hawkes tells me the sub's batter- 
ies are too low. "Turn that switch off and hang on — 
we're coming straight up," he says, and we shoot 
toward the surface. We breach suddenly, popping a 
third of the sub out of the water. As I catch my 
breath, I hear Rosen over the radio. He's concerned 
that sailboats are coming into the area and wants 
to tow the Falcon back to the launch. Hawkes tells 
him to hold off. "We're doing one more," he says, 
and no one argues. After all, it's his vehicle. pm 



PHOTOGRAPH BY DOUG ADESKO 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM I DECEMBER 2009 85 




Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. The most fuel-efficient full-size 5UV.* And that's no small feat. With 
our G 0-Day Satisfaction Guarantee** if you don't absolutely tove it, return it. Simple as 
that. As always, you also get our 10D,0DO-Mile/5-Vear Transferable Powertrain Warranty/ 
With roadside assistance and courtesy transportation, It's the best coverage in America. 
For complete details and limitations, visit chevy.com/guarantee. 




MAY THE BEST CAR WIN:" 




'Based an CM Large Utility segment , EPA est. 21 mps city, 22 hwy Excludes olhe* CM vehrctes. 

"Ltises not included Return between JO and ED days wrth less than 4.000 mi Fes. Nat available wrtri some other offers Ottoer restrictions ipplv Tike delivery bv "1/30/05 Excludes medium duty trucks 
T Whichever comes first See dealer for limited warranty details 




ootprint. 





OUTSIDE-THE-TOOL- 
BOX TIPS FOR 
GONZO REPAIRS 



Illustrations by Dogo 



Charge 
Attack 




Deeply 

discharged car 
batteries can 
take days to 
charge with a 
conventional 
charger, 
because their 
internal 
resistance is 
high. Myth- 
Buster (and PM 
contributing 
editor) Jamie 
Hyneman 
suggests using 
a DC stick 
welder for a 
few minutes to 
wake the 
battery up. Use 
the lowest amp 
setting, stand 
back, and, if the 
battery starts 
to get hot, 
cease 
immediately. 



Liquor Fix 

Some of us 
save money by 
using water for 
windshield- 
washer fluid. 
Naturally, the 
water should 
be replaced 
with a 
premixed 
winter blend 
when cold 
weather rolls 
around. But 
who thinks of 
everything? 
Here's the 
scenario: The 
water freezes. 
You can't find 
the blue fluid. 
Instead of 
waiting for 
spring, you 
remember that 
cheap vodka 
works fine. 
You don't have 
any vodka, 
Vladimir? Try 
methyl or 
isopropyl 
alcohol, which 
can be found 
at most 
hardware 
stores. Even 
rubbing 
alcohol will do 
in a pinch. 



Floating Feeling 



Disintegrated float in the carburetor of your dune buggy? Make a fuel 
injector out of a Bic ballpoint. Gut the pen, leaving the plug in the top. 
Disconnect the fuel line from the carb, and push it over the Bic's pointy 
end. Strap the pen — vent hole facing down — over the carb throat with a 
rubber band or a piece of wire. The gas 
squirts out the vent hole. The engine will 
run pretty well at half throttle. It won't idle, 
and will run lean at full throttle, but at least 
you'll be able to drive back to civilization. 



Stuck Wheelo 




Kicked and hammered the wheel of your car, but it still won't pop 
off the hub? Run the lugs back on and leave them two threads shy 
of tight, then lower your ride to the ground. Drive the car around 
the block while you simultaneously stab the brakes and shake the 
steering wheel. The wheel and tire assembly will pop loose. Next, 
wire-brush the hub/wheel mating surface to clean up any 
corrosion; use antiseize compound to prevent a recurrence. 



Clean the Clipper 



Free your lawnmower deck of dried grass by idling it for 5 minutes or so 
while spraying water under the blade. No more putty-knife scraping. 



DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 






O 
W) 

b 



Demolishing a room for a home 
improvement project is a lot 
easier with a tool commonly 
found in the shed: a square-nose 
shovel. It removes just about 
anything that a thin blade can 
get under. The handle provides 
plenty of leverage to pull up 
carpeting, tacks and all. If the 
blade is even a little bit sharp, old 
vinyl floor tile or linoleum lifts 
from the adhesive. Peel old 
quarter-round, wainscoting and 
crown molding off the walls and 
ceiling. Even crumbly old roof 
shingles— nails and all— peel up 
easily. Drywall doesn't have a 
chance. Best yet, you've already 
got a shovel handy for cleaning 
up after the demo is done. 



Mechanical Advantage 

Got a bunch of fenceposts to remove? You can 
dig 'em up with a shovel, huff, puff. Better yet, get 
a big pipe wrench and clamp it to the base of the 
post about 8 inches above the ground. Now use a 
floor jack or just a scissors jack under the head of , 
the wrench to lift the posts— even if they're 
anchored in concrete. 



n= 



t 




Have you 
ever strug- 
gled to fill a 
transmis- 
sion on a 
transfer case 
or other 
hard-to- 
reach reser- 
voir? Since 
space is so 
tight, fun- 
nels are 
useless. Try 
this: Fill a 
quart zip- 
lock freezer 
bag with 
lube, and cut 
a quarter- 
inch off one 
corner. 
You've just 
made the 
automotive 
equivalent of 
a pastry bag, 
used for 
decorating 
cakes. Now 
you can 
squeeze lube 
up or over 
into the fill 
hole from 
almost any 
angle. 



AEROSOL CARB CLEANER 



Cleanup in Bay 4 

It's not just for cleaning carburetors 
anymore. It makes a perfect solvent 
for most anything around the shop. 
Spray some on a sticky gasket or on 
gasket sealer residue to make 
scraping a lot easier. 

Mounting Issues 

Trying to mount a tubeless tire but 
can't quite get the bead to seat so 
you can inflate it? A 2-second shot of 
carb cleaner, followed by a flick of 
your lighter, literally blows the beads 
onto the rim, allowing you to air up 
normally. Warning: We're not 
responsible for singed eyebrows or 
pinched fingers. 



The Running of the Wires 

There are times when a length of conduit 
outstretches the fish tape. Then what? 
Tie some monofilament fishing line 
around a small sponge ball or a wadded- 
up plastic bag, then stuff it into one end 
of the conduit. Attach a Shop-Vac to the 
other end and flick the switch. Within 
seconds, the sponge or bag is drawn 
through the conduit and into the vacuum. 
Now use the fishing line to pull the wires. 



Coming Unglued 

Got some leftover gooey adhesive from 
that Grateful Dead sticker on your new 
used minivan? Carb cleaner dissolves it 
and won't damage the paint, unless 
your car is coated with old-fashioned 
lacquer instead of modern enamel. 

That Sucking Sensation 

Is a vacuum leak somewhere under- 
hood causing that idle misfire? Use 
carb cleaner to find it: Spray a quick 
shot around the intake manifold. As the 
cleaner is sucked into the leak, the lean 
mixture is enriched, momentarily 
raising the idle speed. Short puffs 
narrow the search. 

Get Me Outta Here 

Door locks gummed up by years of 
pocket lint, especially if someone's 
been lubing with 3-ln-One oil (which 
traps dirt)? Blast carb cleaner into 
the key slot to remove the glop, then 
lube with nonsticky graphite. 



Dusting for Oil Leaks 



Matt Crawford, author of Shop Class os Soulcraft, came up with this: "Chase oil leaks 
by cleaning the engine, and spraying a generous coating of foot powder in the area of 
the leak. Run the engine for a minute or two, and any fresh oil will soak into the white 
powder, leaving a noticeable stain." 



Leak 



Foot Powder 




Thumb 

Need a 
shim? 



The thick- 
nesses of 
some common 
items: 

-> Post-it note 
0.004 inches 
-> Credit card 
0.030 inches 

Lost the 

feeler 

gauge? 

-> Beverage- 
can lid 

0.014 inches 
(typical 
ignition-point 

gap) 

-> Jumbo 

paperclip 

0.040 inches 

No scale 
handy? 

-> 1 gallon 
of water 

8.4 pounds 
-> 1 gallon 
of gas 

6.2 pounds 
-> 1 gallon 
of diesel 
7.2 pounds 

No ruler? 

-> Quarter 
0.955 inches 
in diameter 
-» Credit card 
3 3 /8x2V8 
inches 
-> 1-inch box 
wrench roughly 
12 inches long 

Can't find 
the 

measuring 
cup? 

-> 12-ounce 
soda can 

1.5 cups 

-> Oil container 
cap holds 
about an 
ounce 
-> Spray- 
paint cap 
4.5 ounces 



i. 



* 







# 






\ 




Clean Energy Update 



ew 



Wildcatters 



exans o 

state in a surprising position— leading 
the charge to alternati 



ennifer Bogo 









Driving along Broadway in Sweetwater, Texas, one 

could justifiably assume the city is on its way down, not its 
way up. Cobwebs crowd the windows of abandoned store- 
fronts, and peeling signs hang from cracked facades. It is 
only after I pull up to the mayor's office, pausing to study 
the street more carefully, that I notice a real clue to the 
city's changing fortunes: The blond stone building is neatly 
sandwiched between Craig A. Johnson, Independent Petro- 
leum Landman, and Evans Enterprises, "Your source for 
wind turbine maintenance solutions." 

Greg Wortham, the mayor of Sweetwater, is a compact 
man who, contrary to his West Texas roots, speaks quickly 
and easily, offering more information than is asked. As we 

Dan Templeton stands on 

the nacelle of a 2-megawatt 

DeWind turbine in Sweetwater, 

Texas. Four of the world's five 

biggest wind projects are in 

Sweetwater's Nolan County. 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM DECEMBER 2009 



leave downtown in his silver Ford Escape Hybrid, he 
points to one low-slung building after another. "That's a 
British company, Altezza. They work on the outside of the 
blades and towers, like spacewalkers. That building had 
been vacant for a dozen years, easily. This is General 
Electric — there's 150 workers there. It used to be a Coca- 
Cola storage facility. At one point, a quarter of all GE tur- 
bines in the world were built here. Northwind moved into 
that one; it held a company that made deer blinds." 

Along the narrow state road, warehouses evolve into 
wide-open plains where Black Angus cattle meander 
among the bases of sleek white turbines. I have to crane 
my neck in order to take them in. When the blades revolve 
to 12 o'clock, the turbines stretch to a height twice that of 
the Statue of Liberty and sport a wingspan greater than a 
747's. As I peer out the window, Wortham identifies tur- 
bine models the way a bird-watcher ticks off species: The 
nacelles of Mitsubishis appear to have two eyes and a 
mouth on the back, he tells me. Siemenses have a tail fin 
and are long and sleek like a bullet; General Electrics are 
shaped like a breadbox and Vestas turbines are cut across 
the bias with a clean diagonal line. 

The irony of this scenario in a state better known for its 
drilling rigs is not lost on Wortham. "If you picked 50 

states, plus D.C., and 
asked anybody in the 
U.S. to rank all 51 [for 
wind power], Texas 
would be somewhere 
around Mississippi," he 
says, "at the bottom." 

ince the Spindletop 

gusher inspired the 
first wave of wildcatters 
in 1901, Texas has had 
a history of going all 
out in the energy busi- 
ness — but not in ways 
that are necessarily 
friendly to the environ- 
ment. If Texas were a country — and Texans love to remind 
you that it once was a sovereign republic — it would rank 
seventh in carbon-dioxide emissions: Its economy 
accounts for more than a quarter of total U.S. natural gas 
production and oil refinery capacity, and its residents con- 
sume up to three times as much energy as residents of 
neighboring states. 

If it were a country, Texas would also rank sixth in wind 
power, after Germany, the U.S. as a whole, Spain, India and 
China. While U.S. wind-power capacity grew by 43 percent 
in 2007, in Texas it rose by 57 percent. All told, the state's 



92 DECEMBER 2009 
POPULARMECHANICS.COM 





Wind and Cotton 

"Because there are so many 
landowners here, nobody 
gets rich out of this deal," 
says Cliff Etheredge (left), 
whose son Scott farms 
cotton on land in Roscoe. 
"It's just a small, steady 
income. If you take care of 
it, it'll put your kids through 
college and help pay debts. 
It's certainly a stabilizing 
influence on the economy." 



turbines now produce more than 
8300 megawatts of electricity, enough 
to power about 2 million homes; 
nearly 3000 are produced in Sweet- 
water's Nolan County alone. In com- 
parison, Vermont produces 6 mega- 
watts; Oregon, 1408. Even California 
generates just 2781 megawatts from 
wind power, and it built its first wind 
project nearly three decades ago. 

And that is the curious paradox of 
Texas: While seemingly more virtu- 
ous states labor over environmental 
impact assessments, Texans see a 
business opportunity and grab it — 
and so could very well end up leading 
the nation in clean energy. "In Texas, 
because we don't care about the envi- 
ronment, we're actually able to do 
things that are good for the environ- 
ment," says Michael Webber, assistant professor of 
mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Aus- 
tin. "It's the most ironic, preposterous situation. If you 
want to build a wind farm, you just build it." 

On private land, wind developers simply make a deal 
with landowners and pay them a royalty. But there's no sit- 
ing review process for wind farms on state lands, either. 
Plus, the state's boundary extends 10.3 miles from the 
coast, a stipulation made by Sam Houston, Texas's presi- 
dent, before the republic joined the United States in 1845. 
Federal waters off all other coastal states begin 3 miles 
offshore, which means wind projects beyond that point — 
such as Cape Wind, which was proposed for Nantucket 
Sound in Massachusetts in 2001 — fall under the jurisdic- 
tion of the Minerals Management Service. 

"If you'd like to build a wind farm off the coast of 
Texas, you only have to deal with the Texas General Land 
Office, and we're a very eager leaser," Jim Suydam, the 
office's press secretary, says. "My boss is a Texas Republi- 
can. He's an old Marine lieutenant colonel who carries a 
gun in his boot. But you'll find no bigger proponent of off- 
shore wind power, because he sees it as a vital part of a 
diversified revenue stream for public education." 

Offshore oil and gas production have contributed 
$6 billion to the Texas Permanent School Fund since it 
was established in 1854 — but that source of income won't 
rise forever, Suydam says. So this summer the Texas Gen- 
eral Land Office signed two offshore wind leases with 
Houston-based Baryonyx; they were the state's sixth and 
seventh. When the company goes into production, the 
state will take a cut — and resell the power. "It's different 
than in California, where it's all about carbon emissions," 
Suydam says. "Here it's all about making money." 

Heat rises. So inside the cramped nacelle of a 

2-megawatt wind turbine, 260 feet above the West Texas 
plains, it's easily 100 F — hot enough to give the gearbox a 
mirage-like haze, to cause my fingers to fumble clumsily 











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V*»-*M 








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Carbon 
Recycling 



ie Sunrise Ridge Algae pilot plant takes advantage of a copious resource: 
irbon dioxide. The gas is siphoned from the top of a stack at the Hornsby 
end Wastewater Treatment Facility in Austin, then pulled through a series 
of demisters and compressors (below). The C0 2 percolates into reactors 
downslope where it feeds algae, later processed into biofuel. 





t. 







with simple carabiners and to make the last few rungs of a 
narrow steel ladder feel interminably long. But just 10 feet 
higher, thermodynamics change. A strong, cool breeze 
blows steadily through the rope tethering me to the top of 
the hub, around the carbon-fiber blades that taper off into 
the blinding sun. I shade my eyes and look to the horizon: 
Neat rows of turbines spin steadily — an alternative energy 
crop thriving in America's petroleum heartland. 

Dan Templeton pops his head and shoulders up 
through the hatch to triple-check that my harness is 
clipped in. As a wind technician, he has climbed hundreds 
of such towers; his rangy body can go from to 300 feet in 
about 10 minutes. "This job has a certain romance to it 
because you're working at such 
heights — there's some perceived 
danger," says Templeton, who now 
runs a program to train future tech- 
nicians at Texas State Technical 
College in Sweetwater. This fall, 250 
students were enrolled. "It's really 
not that dangerous," he says, "but for 
your typical country boy who likes to 
work outside and with his hands, it's 
the perfect job." 

This year in Nolan County, the 
wind industry directly employed 
more than 1300 people. Some, like 
Bryan Gregory Jr., a third-generation 
potash miner, answered an ad in the 
paper and learned skills on the job. 
"Wind has taken very good care of me and my family," he 
says. "I started at the bottom and worked my way up." Now 
Gregory's doing the hiring as a project manager at Bluarc 
Management Group, a renewable energy asset manage- 
ment firm. "In wind, our guys are cross-functional," he 
says. "They do everything from IT networking to mainte- 
nance to electrical and mechanical troubleshooting to 
crane work." This year, wind also provided Nolan County 
with more than 800 construction jobs. 

"Up until 2000, the only economic development for 10 
or 15 years was prisons," Mayor Wortham told me. Wind 
power took off after Texas passed a renewable portfolio 
standard in 1999, mandating that utilities generate 2000 
megawatts of renewable energy by 2009. Coupled with a 
federal renewable-energy-production tax credit, turbines 
suddenly began to look profitable to wind developers and 
to communities like Sweetwater. While driving me 
around, Wortham pointed out Highland High School — 
both the old part, built in the 1930s, and the new $8 mil- 
lion facility that will soon replace it. Property taxes on 
wind energy have poured more than $30 million into 
Nolan County's economy, and in 2005 the population 
finally stabilized after a decades-long decline. 

Roughly 11,000 people live in Sweetwater, where rust- 
brown pump jacks have long supplemented ranching 
income. Eight miles due west on Interstate 20 sits the cot- 
ton capital of Roscoe. It has about 1300 residents and half 
as many wind turbines — when the fourth phase of the 



Roscoe Wind Complex was completed this summer it 
became the largest wind project in the world. Initially, 
developers were reluctant to build turbines on farmland 
because it involved negotiating with so many landowners. 
So five years ago, retired cotton farmer Cliff Etheredge 
organized family and friends into one group, under one 
contract — then paid for his own anemometer tower and 
took the data to a developer's door. 

"This is the first time most of these landowners ever 
had a chance at a steady income," says Etheredge, who has 
since started his own business as a wind developer. 
Because there's not enough rain to recharge groundwater 
for irrigation, agriculture is touch and go. "Until recently, 
wind was a tremendous negative 
because it robbed us of our mois- 
ture — the evaporation rate here is 
many times greater than our rainfall," 
he says. "Now we're able to sell the 
wind. And it's a real blessing to us." 

he Sunrise Ridge Algae test 

farm sits deep within the Hornsby 
Bend Wastewater Treatment Facility 
in Austin, past mountains of fresh, 
dark Dillo Dirt — a compost made 
from treated sewage sludge and yard 
clippings — and just downslope from 
a pair of hulking anaerobic digesters. 
It looks less like a startup company 
than a squatters' camp. Sheets of 
black plastic, crisscrossed by PVC pipes and rubber tubing, 
cover the ground. Sara Norris, the 24-year-old supervising 
engineer, greets me at the plastic storage shed that serves 
as the lab. "As I mentioned," she says, "it's very low-tech." 

Slim and suntanned, with hair swept back into a long 
brown ponytail, Norris leads me over to a row of flat, 
100-square-meter bags called helioreactors. The algae 
inside soak up the sun, doubling in number every other 
day. "You can step on them," Norris tells me as she strides 
onto their surface in black work boots. "They're really 
hardy." I follow. It's only after warm water seeps through 
the permeable fabric and swirls around my exposed feet 
that I think about what's inside: a mixture of nonpotable 
wash water and a nitrate- and phosphate-rich fertilizer, 
processed from sewage sludge. The algae love it; so, appar- 
ently, do the flies buzzing around my ankles. 

A rancid smell wafts from the direction of the digest- 
ers, where bacteria break down the wastewater, forming 
methane and carbon dioxide. The plant burns the gases 
off in a stack. "When you combust methane, it produces 
[even more] carbon dioxide, and we use that to feed our 
algae and modulate the pH in our bags," Norris says. After 



DECEMBER 2009 95 
POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




a few days, the algae is harvested and settled in a tank, 
where it becomes a deep-green pesto-like paste. Then it's 
dehydrated — for now, in propane dryers rigged from old 
filing cabinets — and the resulting "algae crackers," which 
look like sheets of nori, are loaded into a catalytic ther- 
molysis unit off-site. A chemical conversion process turns 
the algae into crude bio-oil, which can be run through the 
existing energy infrastructure of refineries and pipelines. 

"A really critical part of algae as a viable fuel or energy 
source is that you're able to get things for free, like nutri- 
ents and carbon dioxide," Norris says. Texas produces 676 
million metric tons of C0 2 a year, so the opportunities to 
site algae plants are almost endless. Norris rattles off likely 
candidates: cement plants, oil refineries, even cattle feed- 
lots. "The stoichiometry," or the math behind the chemis- 
try, "suggests that for every ton of algae you produce you 
consume one and a half tons of carbon dioxide," she says. 

Algae operations can squeeze value from another copi- 
ous Texas resource: brackish water. The dusty town of 
Pecos, in the southwestern corner of the state, used to be 
cotton country — but with only 9 inches of rainfall a year 
and saline aquifers, the surrounding fields have long 
since dried up. Today, saltwater algae swirls like pea soup 
in open raceways behind a Texas AgriLife Research Sta- 
tion run by Texas A&M University. "It's a traditional agro- 
nomic society here, but algae's a plant too," Mike Foster, 
the station's director, says. "If we can show the growers 
that this is going to work, they'll be the first ones to try it." 

Several hurdles — some biological, some technologi- 
cal — still need to be cleared. At Pecos, for example, scien- 
tists are looking for an algae species that can withstand 
temperature swings ranging from blistering to freezing. 
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, mean- 
while, are experimenting with more efficient ways to 
extract oil from algal cells. But the payoff has the potential 
to be huge: Conservatively, algae can produce between 
2500 and 5000 gallons of fuel per acre per year; soy pro- 
duces 50 and corn, 250. If successful, Texans will effectively 
leapfrog first-gen biofuels to those poised to turn a profit. 

But the state's real strength in the clean-energy 
economy might lie in its entrenched dirty one. The Energy 
Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates that U.S. 
biofuel production reach 36 billion gallons a year in 2022; 
only 15 billion gallons can come from corn-based ethanol. 
But while cellulosic ethanol and algae companies have 
sprung up from Boston to California, few have made it past 
the pilot-plant stage of 10,000 or so gallons a year — let 
alone to the commercial phase of tens of millions. Texas, 
on the other hand, has more than 26 refineries already pro- 
cessing 7.4 million barrels of petroleum a day. 

"The biggest thing people fail to understand about 
energy is the scale," UT's Webber says. "We understand 
scale. We have scale of resource and scale of industry. If 
you want biofuels that satisfy 10 percent of our nation's 
fuel consumption, which is required with the Energy 
Independence and Security Act, how are you going to pro- 
duce and move and blend them? Energy, in the end, is 
about steel in the ground." 




Algae to Biocrude 

Sara Norris, a San Antonio native and mechanical engineer, 
supervises a pilot plant for Sunrise Ridge Algae, which grows 
algae in flat, white helioreactors containing wastewater. Con- 
verting the algae to fuel can help clean up both air and water 
pollution, she says. "Algae just made sense to me." 




In other words, biofuels may have to come through 
Texas one way or another. And oil companies — hedging 
their bets against future carbon regulation and declining 
production — have already begun to nudge open that door. 
BP, Shell and Chevron have all backed companies working 
on cellulosic ethanol and algae-based biofuels. This July, 
even the leviathan Exxon announced a $600 million 
investment in Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology com- 
pany engineering algae to continuously produce oil. 

"When you're a small company and just trying things 
out, you've got to be as cheap as you can be," Sunrise Ridge 
Algae's CEO, Norman Whitton, says — even spiking helio- 
reactors with Perrier for a quick fix of C0 2 when necessary. 
"We're trying to pioneer technology," he says, "but we 
know that in the long run, in order to be even remotely rel- 
evant, it's going to take an awful lot of investment." 

Last year, the gross domestic product for Texas's oil 
and gas industry was $200 billion. "We're the headquarters 



of the energy industry of today," Texas state representative 
Mark Strama says. "That should be our biggest competitive 
advantage at being the headquarters of the energy industry 
of tomorrow." He adds: "California has Silicon Valley, bil- 
lionaires who made their money in technology who see 
renewable energy as the next Internet — and those guys are 
putting their money where their mouths are. What would 
totally eclipse all of our competitors is if the fossil fuels 
industry would say, 'We're going there.'" 

With nearly 12 percent of the world's silicon-processing 
capacity, Texas, as it happens, has a Silicon Valley of its 
own. Dallas-based Texas Instruments invented the inte- 
grated circuit in 1958, and central Texas has since grown 
into a world leader of semiconductor chip manufacturing. 
"As a result, you have thousands of people who know how 
to lay microcircuitry on glass, which is basically how chips 
are made," Steve Taylor, a senior manager of corporate 
affairs for Applied Materials, says. "And that's the same 
concept for solar." 

The fastest growing market for chip-based products — 
cellphones, BlackBerries, laptops and iPods — has moved 
to Asia, taking semiconductor manufacturers with it. But 
the talent pool that remains behind in Texas is, in effect, 
already partially trained to work in a solar factory. "We 
have a huge market for solar panels, and we have a lot of 
empty space to put the panels out there," Taylor says. "If 
Texas takes the initiative, it could be a center for not only 
solar-panel installation, both rooftop and utility scale, it 
could also create solar manufacturing jobs here." 

Applied Materials makes equip- 
ment for manufacturing microchips 
in Austin and flat-panel displays else- 
where. Three years ago it used that 
expertise to begin making equip- 
ment for thin-film solar panels, 
which it sells to factories overseas. So 
far there's only one factory making 
solar panels in Texas, and it begins 
production this December. Austin- 
based HelioVolt uses a thin-film 
technology too, but with copper 
indium gallium selenide (CIGS) as 
the semiconductor instead of silicon. 
The company coats 2 x 4-foot sheets 
of glass with CIGS to form circuits, 
rather than discrete solar cells. These 
"photovoltaic integrated circuits" can be used for curtain 
walls, rooftops or ground-mounted solar installations. 

Texas has already proven that it can deploy a large- 
scale renewable — wind. Soon, it will also have the trans- 
mission lines to handle power from solar as well. Texas is 
the only state besides Hawaii and Alaska to have a self- 
contained electrical grid — regulated by the Electric Reli- 
ability Council of Texas, not the Federal Energy Regulatory 
Commission — and the Public Utility Commission recently 
approved a $5 billion expansion to the windiest areas of 
the state. (T. Boone Pickens has delayed his plan to build a 




wind project in Pampa until these lines reach the panhan- 
dle.) Plus, solar could provide power during the day when 
electrical demand is highest and wind is at its weakest. 

According to the National Renewable Energy Labora- 
tory, by developing less than 1 percent of its total land area 
for solar, Texas could generate enough electricity (without 
energy storage) to satisfy the state's 2007 demand for more 
than 300 million megawatt-hours. So far, California leads 
the country with 528 megawatts of grid-tied solar, followed 
by New Jersey (70), Colorado (36) and Nevada (34). Less 
than 5 megawatts of solar power are grid-tied in Texas. 

But the state's streamlined regulatory system could 
vault Texas to lead in solar power too. For example, this 
summer San Antonio's utility signed a contract with Tes- 
sera Solar for a 27-megawatt project in West Texas; the 
first units are expected to come online by the end of next 
year. That pace stands in stark contrast to Tessera's expe- 
rience in California, where the company signed a contract 
for an 850-megawatt project in 2005 and only recently sub- 
mitted the 5000-page impact assessment. While the scale 
of the two projects is vastly different, it is similar to 
another moment in the two states' history, such as when, 
in 1999, Texas's 30-megawatt Delaware Mountain Wind 
Farm began operations on a Culberson County ranch. 
Texas didn't build small wind projects for long. 

The wind boom in Texas has been due, in part, to basic 
mechanics — turbines are a time-tested technology. Solar, 
by comparison, is still relatively immature. "The flip side 
is that the potential for solar to come down in cost is much 
greater than that of wind," B.J. Stanbery, HelioVolt's chief 
strategy officer and founder, says. In 
fact, the price of solar panels has 
already dropped 40 percent since last 
year. "So what happens when you 
have a cost-effective business oppor- 
tunity in Texas?" Stanbery asks. 
"Well, we move in and take over." 

ext to the northbound lane of 

1-35 in Austin sprouts unusual land- 
scaping: a row of 16-foot-high "sun- 
flowers" with photovoltaic panels 
cupped like high-tech petals over 
welded steel stems. Brewster 
McCracken takes the next exit and, as 
we pass a shopping center, points out 
a green-built Home Depot and a 
solar-powered Chipotle restaurant. Then, as we drive 
deeper into Mueller, a 711-acre mixed-use development on 
the site of Austin's old municipal airport, a control tower 
rises into view above a horizon of tightly packed homes. 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 130 



DECEMBER 2009 97 
POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



T7tSi 



n Jobs 
for Real? 



by Joe P. Hasler 



From pure optimism to extreme skepticism, few contem- 
porary buzzwords elicit such polarizing emotions as "green 
jobs." Proponents say these jobs will ease not only unemploy- 
ment but also climate change and the nation's dependence 
on foreign oil. Skeptics question the sustainability of green 
jobs and the government's ability to identify game-changing 
technologies. By some counts, we can look forward to 5 mil- 
lion green jobs; by others, any surplus will be far outweighed 
by a net loss of jobs in other fields. 

The first step in cutting through the hype surrounding 
green jobs is simply to define them. Some workers, such as 
energy auditors and solar-panel installers, have plied their 
trades for decades. But even jobs in emerging fields, such as 
smart-grid and electric vehicle development, repurpose age- 
old professions such as electrician, mechanic and engineer. If 











bo 

ID 



Green 

Jobs 

Geography 



All states have green jobs. But the Clean Energy 
Economy report, released by the Pew Center on the 
States in June, attempts to determine how they are 
distributed across the country and where they 
demonstrate the greatest growth. This map shows 
eight states in which the percentage of green jobs 
exceeds the national average. Some are long-time 
clean-tech bastions, while others are green upstarts 
seizing on abundant renewable-energy resources. 



• 19,300 green 
jobs • 1% of total 

jobs •4.77% 
annual growth 



Oregon s 
Employment 
Department 
projects green jobs 
will increase 14 
percent from 2008 
to 2010, largely 
from organic 
farming and 
forestry. Wind 
giant Vestas is in 
Portland, as is the 
Bonneville Power 
Administration, 
which is develop- 
ing ways to handle 
mass quantities of 
wind power. 



CA 



^ 




•125,000 green 
jobs* 0.71% of 
total jobs • 0.88% 
annual growth 

Between 2006 and 
2008, $6.6 billion 
of venture capital 
poured into the 
state's clean- 
tech startups. 
Home-appliance 
efficiency 
standards spurred 
manufacturing 
jobs. And a 
renewable 
portfolio standard 
requiring 33 
percent renewable 
power by 2020 
has encouraged 
growth in wind 
and solar. 



MN 



• 4500 green jobs 
•0.63% of total 
jobs •10.11% 
annual growth 

Turbine manufac- 
turer Nordic 
Windpower 
recently received 
a DOE loan 
guarantee to 
expand its plant at 
Pocatello, which 
is also home to 
Hoku Materials— 
a solar materials 
manufacturer. In 
eastern Idaho, 
wind farms 
operated by Exergy 
and Ridgeline 
produce energy 
not only for Idaho, 
but also for 
California, Oregon 
and Washington. 



coZl 

•17,000 green 
jobs • 0.64% of 
total jobs •1.98% 
annual growth 



Solix Biofuels, 
Abound Solar and 
Ascent Solar are all 
located in Denver. 
The National 
Renewable Energy 
Laboratory in 
Golden, Colorado 
State University 
in Fort Collins and 
the University of 
Colorado in 
Boulder lead in 
research and 
development of 
clean-energy 
technologies. 



• 20,000 green 
jobs • 0.64% of 
total jobs •1.38% 
annual growth 

A growing number 
of small, eco- 
friendly manufac- 
turers based in the 
Twin Cities produce 
items as varied as 
nontoxic cleaning 
supplies, 
sustainably 
sourced cabinetry 
and high-efficiency 
HVAC systems. The 
state is home to 
Mortenson 
Construction, the 
nation's largest 
builder of wind 
farms. And Xcel 
Energy, motivated 
by Gov. Tim 
Pawlenty's pledge 
to reach 25 
percent renewable 
power by 2025, 
continues to 
develop wind farms 
across the state. 



OH 



• 35,200 green 
jobs • 0.56% of 
total jobs • 0.85% 
annual growth 

In 2002, Ohio's 
Department of 
Development 
launched a grants 
program to rapidly 
expand the state's 
fuel cell industry. 
Rolls-Royce, based 
in North Canton, is 
oneofthe70-plus 
members of Ohio's 
Fuel Cell Coalition. 
Once the glass 
capital of America, 
Toledo has 
emerged as a 
global center for 
solar manufactur- 
ing; 5000 jobs 
have been added 
over the past five 
years. 





ME 


• 6000 green jobs 

• 0.85% of total 
jobs • 2.34% 
annual growth 



"\ 




An aged housing 
stock means jobs 
in weatherization 
and energy 
auditing. Maine's 
western ridge is 
home to four large 
wind farms, 
including Stetson 
Wind, which 
received $40 
million in stimulus 
money. Plus, a 
University of Maine 
professor says the 
state's 3500 miles 
of windy coastline 
could generate 
5000 megawatts 
and 15,000jobs. 



MA_ 

•26,700 green 
jobs • 0.69% of 
total jobs • 0.52% 
annual growth 

Gov. Deval Patrick 
called for the state 
to up its solar 
capacity to 250 
megawatts by 
2017— and from 
2007 to 2008 
solar jobs doubled. 
Construction 
recently began in 
Boston on the 
largest wind- 
turbine testing 
facility in the U.S., 
which will likely 
attract manufac- 
turers to the state. 



J 



PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON FULFORD 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM I DECEMBER 2009 99 



* Clean Energy Update 




you count all the people working in clean energy, environmen- 
tally friendly production, energy efficiency and pollution miti- 
gation — as the Pew Center on the States recently did — and 
discount the people indirectly linked to those fields, such as 
accountants, there were 770,000 green jobs in the U.S. in 2007. 
(Nuclear energy also wasn't counted.) In contrast, there were 
1.3 million people working in fossil-fuel sectors. 

If measured against everyjob out there, green jobs account 
for just 0.49 percent of employment. But Kil Huh, a project 
director at Pew, says the sector grew rapidly from 1998 to 2007. 

During that period the 
overall economy grew 
£^B*J^ 3.7 percent, while green 
jobs grew 9.1 percent. 
And according to the 
Economic Policy Insti- 
tute's Ethan Pollack, 
green jobs tend to be 
durable and better- 
paying. "Green invest- 
ment results in a higher 
mix of production 
jobs," Pollack says, 
"and pushes against a 
decades-long trend of 
manufacturing jobs 
disappearing and low- 
paying service jobs tak- 
ing their place." 

This initial robust 
growth was fueled pri- 
marily by private investment. Ernst & Young, a firm that pro- 
vides strategic guidance for clean technology companies, 
found that as of June 2008, 301 companies in the sector had 
attracted $7.3 billion in venture capital. Although the reces- 
sion caused funding to drop nearly 50 percent in the first three 
months of 2009 from the same period in 2008 — overall venture 
capital decreased 61 percent, according to Pew — that early 
boost may help green companies better weather the downturn. 
"The clean energy economy was one of the few sectors that was 
better insulated," Huh says. "Because of the increased spend- 
ing at the federal level, its recovery should be a lot faster." 

Roughly $84 billion of the $787 billion American Recovery 
and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has been allocated to initia- 
tives, such as weatherization and battery research, aimed at 
stimulating green jobs. Already clean tech is showing signs of 
revival. Ernst & Young found second-quarter venture capital in 
the sector was up 73 percent from the first quarter, thanks, in 
part, to confidence stemming from increased government 
support. Jen Stutsman, a representative for the Department of 
Energy, which is responsible for disbursing nearly $37 billion 
in stimulus money, says a major goal of the Recovery Act was 
to "catalyze private investors to make investments in projects 



A technician makes solar panels 
at HelioVolt's new factory in 
Texas. The company took advan- 
tage of a workforce trained in 
the semiconductor industry. 



Wisconsin 
Weatherizer 

The new hires in the weatherization 
unit of the Central Wisconsin 
Community Action Council 
(CWCAC) are a motley assemblage 
of recession refugees. A list of their 
former professions reads like a 
who's who of manly labors: auto 
mechanic, carpenter, roofer, 
plumber. Adam Faul installed floors 
for 13 years. But in 2008 projects 
started drying up and by 2009 he 
was forced to look for other work. 
"When the economy nose-dived, I 
kind of went along with it," he says. 

This spring, Faul came across a 
job listing for the CWCAC, which 
was hiring six new technicians to 
help low-income residents reduce 
their energy costs. The technicians 
are dispatched to homes, where, 
acting on recommendations from 
energy auditors, they install 
insulation, clean furnaces, seal air 
leaks, change light bulbs and 
replace inefficient appliances and 
windows. With his background in 
home renovation and experience 
with power tools, Faul thought it 
seemed like an ideal new career. 

"Most of the guys who 
transitioned here from otherjobs 
had construction skills, and they 
wanted to stay in that field because 
they enjoyed the work," says Brian 
Bauer, who once installed gutters 
but now supervises the CWCAC s 
four three-man weatherization 
crews. "There was no work left for 
them. Now they've got stable jobs." 

Faul, who started in June, 
appreciates the stability, but finds 
the work rewarding in another way 
too. "It seems like we're really 
making a difference, like we're part 
of a bigger picture," he says. "What 
we do is hard, physical work, but to 
me it seems different. I don't 
consider it just anotherjob." 




100 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



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* Clean Energy Update 



Green 
Jobs 
Growing 
Fast 



From high-tech research 

and development roles to 
blue-collarwork in manufac- 
turing and construction, 
green jobs run the gamut in 
pay, education and job 
description. Some require 
years of schooling and 
advanced degrees; many 
others require only minimum 
retraining, often provided on 
thejoborin brier but 
intensive workshops. 
Community colleges are also 
rapidly retooling curricula to 
offer associate degrees in 
renewable energy systems. 



Fuel Cell Engineer 




Description: Focus on improving the efficiency of fuel cells, which generate electricity 
from hydrogen and oxygen, for both automotive and stationary applications like 
emergency power. Training: Bachelor's degree (minimum) or master's degree 
(preferred) in chemical, electrical or mechanical engineering for research, design, 
fabrication and testing. Salary: $50,000 to $85,000 



Smart-Grid Engineer 



Description: Develop electrical grids that can effectively distribute power from 
intermittent sources such as wind and solar, charge a fleet of electric vehicles and 
communicate through technology that enables homeowners to manage energy costs and 
utility providers to avoid service disruptions. Training: Bachelor's degree (minimum) in 
systems, electrical or software engineering. Salary: $50,000 to $100,000 

"^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

Description: Use machine tools— lathes, milling machines and machining centers— to 
make gearboxes, shafts, yaw drives and other precisely cut or drilled durable turbine 
parts. Training: Vocational schools, technical colleges and apprenticeships; an easy 
transition for workers in traditional manufacturing jobs. Salary: $13 to $25 per hour 



HI 



craiFiUHinouMM.iiiirtrad 



Description: Design and construct buildings that utilize sustainable materials, 
renewable energy sources and efficient plumbing, lighting and heating/cooling systems. 
Training: The Green Building Certification Institute offers Leadership in Energy and 
Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation. Various cities and the National Association 
of Home Builders have unique standards and certification as well. Salary: $50,000 to 
$105,000 (architects); $10 to $30 per hour (builders) 



Enersv Auditor 



Description: Conduct room-by-room visual examination of structures, examine utility 
bills, locate air leaks with blower-door tests or infrared imaging, and then prescribe 
measures to prevent energy waste. Training: To audit existing structures, certification 
from the Building Performance Institute. To assess new construction, certification 
through the Residential Energy Services Network. Salary: $12 to $14 per hour 



Photovoltaic Installer 



Description: Mount solar panels on rooftop racks, configure DC-to-AC inverters and 
wire PV systems to feed electricity to the grid or to operate as stand-alone power plants. 
Training: Private companies and technical schools offer intensive courses for 
newcomers. The gold standard for contractors, electricians and those already in the field: 
A stamp from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, which also 
certifies professionals for solar thermal installation. Salary: $14 to $28 per hour 



they might not otherwise make now." 

Yet some question the government's prescience when it 
comes to selecting worthy projects. Kenneth Green, a fellow 
at the American Enterprise Institute, cites the failed attempt 
to supplant fossil fuels with corn-based ethanol as a prime 
example of a taxpayer-backed swing-and-miss. "The govern- 
ment is not good at picking winners," he says. Richard Sylla, 
an economic historian at New York University, points to the 
Carter administration's attempt to promote solar power. 
"The government subsidized people to put up solar panels," 
he says, and when the price of oil came down "a lot of govern- 
ment money was wasted." 

But today, Sylla says, things might be different. "Even 
before the government came in, Wall Street and the venture 
capital crowd were interested," he says. "Maybe solar power in 
the 1970s was premature, but 40 years later, it might work." 
And Alex Klein, a research director at the consulting firm 
Emerging Energy Research, says the difference between etha- 



nol and this round of government intervention is that funding 
is not confined to one nascent technology. Rather, the Recov- 
ery Act money — in the form of federal loan guarantees, grants 
and tax credits — is spread across a broad range of technolo- 
gies and companies. "They seem to be conscious that if they're 
spending the taxpayers' money, they're not spending it on 
projects that aren't coming to fruition," Klein says. 

To weed out duds, Stutsman says reviewers from within the 
DOE, academia and energy fields carefully scrutinize potential 
awardees. Just how many jobs those projects create — and how 
many will be long-term — remains to be seen. For now, the 
green workforce continues to be a tiny fraction of overall 
employment, making only a slight dent in unemployment. But 
with clean energy technologies advancing quickly, a genuine 
green-collar economy may not be far off. pm 




102 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




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WE TEST SEVEN CORDLESS DRIL 



HITTERS. BY ROY BERENDSOHN 

■* How much cordless drill do you 

need? Probably not as much as you 
think. We've seen continuous improve- 
ment in small drill drivers, especially 
since the introduction of lithium-ion 
battery technology. The new crop of 
12-volt drills looked promising, but 
we wanted to know how well they 
would hold up when we really leaned 
on them. There's only one way to 
answer a question like that. We gath- 
ered seven drills with nearly identical 
features. Then we drilled holes with a 
5 /s-inch spade bit and drove 2-inch dry- 
wall screws until the batteries gave 
out. Here's our report. 



PM editor Harry 
Sawyers and two 
other testers 

d 622 holes 
^..j drove 1657 
screws to test 
dless drills. 



PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANJA HITZENBERGER 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM I DECEMBER 2009 105 




■■ I . I JJ.lM I . I J.LIJjm-M 

Number of 5 /8-inch holes: 



BOSCH MAX LITHEON 



Price: $150 



CRAFTSMAN NEXTEC 

11812 

Price: $90 



HITACHI 

DS10DFL 

Price: $100 



MAKITA 

DF330DW 

Price: $137 



81 



86j 



69j 



what we liked 

Flat-out screwdriving 
capacity. That's where the 
Bosch really shines. It 
performs as if Bosch's 
engineers took one of the 
company's successful 
full-size drills (tools that 
have always done well 
in our tests) and simply 
scaled it down. 
what we didn't 
It's small potatoes (maybe 
even nano potatoes), but the 
Bosch needs a better grip 
surface on its chuck ring, and 
the two-speed slide switch is 
a little stiff. 

• • * # i 



what we liked 

Low price and high perfor- 
mance equal value. That's 
pretty much the Craftsman 
in a nutshell. It turned in a 
respectable performance in 
the drilling and driving tests, 
and it's easy to handle, with 
good grip surfaces and a 
nice, crisp clutch action. 
what we didn't 
The action of the forward 
reverse switch was a bit 
sticky. You can try switching 
the drill from forward to 
reverse and accidentally 
leave the switch set 
between the two. Hit the 
trigger, and it feels like 
you've got a dead battery. 



106 DECEMBER 2009 | 



* * • i 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



what we liked 

The Hitachi is a nimble little 
drill, thanks to a handle 
circumference that's almost 
a half-inch smaller than the 
other products'. And like 
full-size drill drivers, it has a 
box-shaped battery 
mounted on the end of its 
handle, making it one of two 
tools we tested that can 
reliably stand up. (The other 
was the Ryobi.) 
what we didn't 
If a drill as inexpensive as 
the Craftsman can have a 
single collar chuck that you 
don't need two hands to 
operate, so can this tool. 
Hitachi should add one. The 
two-speed selector switch is 
unnecessarily stiff and 
uncomfortable to use. 

ft * * 



what we liked 

This was the only 10.8-volt 
tool in the test. Its smaller 
battery and motor result in 
very nimble performance. It's 
about a half-pound lighter 
than anything else here, and 
it's very slim around the 
handle at the trigger. And 
while the Makita lacks the 
overall drilling and driving 
chops of the other drills, it's 
the best installer's tool. It's 
perfect for boring small 
holes with a twist drill bit 
and driving or removing 
machine screws. 
what we didn't 
The Makita lacks the 
power of its larger 
competitors— but that's 
more an observation 
than a complaint. 

* # # i 




dvertisement 



Where D< 
Your Projects 
Take You? 




fc^SI 




s 1 ^ 



Colorado inventor Jason Bailey rides 
his new "skybike" off Lhe edge of a 
125-foot-high cliff with his nine- 
year-old daughter in the front seat. 
They soar high over the tops of pine 
trees while a stream rambles far be- 
low. "It's like flying," says Bailey as 
he pedals the bike along its 450-foot 
course to the other side of the can- 
yon. "The best seat is in the front; 
you feel like you're floating through 
the air with nothing around you." 




Bailey designed and built the sky- 
bike in his backyard using the Plas- 
maCAM, a new robotic tool that cuts 
all sorts of shapes out of metaL "1 
thought up the idea and drew r the de- 
sign on my computer/" says Bailey, 
"I couldn't believe how easy it was 
to make all the parts with the ma- 
chine, It only took a few hours, and 
fit together perfectly." 



The skybike is 
made of plasma-cut plates attached 
to simple pieces of square tubing. 
Bearings, sprockets and other drive 
parts came from a catalog and an old 
bike. The machine helped make the 
seats from 9/16-inch plywood that 
was covered with foam rubber and 
seat covers stapled to the plywood. 
The seats can be quickly pivoted for 
travel in the opposite direction, and 
the pedal position is adjustable. 





the cable at each end. All the heavy 
plates {up to 1 -inch-thick) that make 
up the tensioner, guide the cable, and 
connect to the anchors were custom 
designed and fabricated with the 
PlasmaCAM. 



The skybike hangs from a i^-inch 
diameter stainless steel cable that 
is tension-lim- 
ited to 15,000 
pounds. A hy- 
draulic tension- 
cr is used to 
test the cable at 
22,000 pounds 
before each 
use. Redundant 
anchors drilled 
into rock hold 







"The PlasmaCAM machine opens 
up a lot of new possibilities for 
what you can make," says Bailey. 
For more information, contact Plas- 
maCAM, Inc., at (719) 676-2700 or 
visit www.plasmacam.com. 




I 



what we liked 

Torque and speed. The 
Milwaukee has both, and it 
works faster than anything 
else, especially when armed 
with the 5 /s-inch spade bit. 
The extra speed helped 
throw chips clear while the 
torque gave it extra oomph 
to twist the bit through wet 
wood or areas near knots. 
Everything about it suggests 
it was designed for people 
who work for a living. It's got 
a big chuck with large 
numbers, and a handy 
lighted gauge that indicates 
battery charge. 
what we didn't 
If you're like our testers, and 
occasionally push the drill 
with one hand on the back of 
the housing, you cut down 
on the airflow to the motor 
through the rear vent. 

* '* * M * 



what we liked 

If you've got a crowded 
toolbox, this is your tool. 
From the chuck to the back 
of the motor housing, it's 
6V2 inches long, 1 inch 
shorter than competitors. 
And if you're the kind of guy 
who leans on a drill, you'll 
appreciate the tool's 250 
in.-lb of torque, equaled only 
by the Milwaukee. That's 
especially handy if you drill 
and drive in pressure-treated 
wood, hardwood or metal. 
Finally, it had the easiest- 
turning chuck ring of the 
seven tools in our test. 
what we didn't 
Like the Milwaukee, the 
Ridgid vents air through the 
rear of the motor housing, 
and you can inadvertently 
choke off airflow by pushing 
the drill with one hand 
behind the motor. 



108 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



-* Drill tests are 
getting tougher to 
judge because 
cordless tools keep 
getting better. All of 
the products here 
performed well- 
beyond our 
expectations. In 
fact, the top of the 

: was almost 
too close to call. 

If portability and 
screwd riving are 
important to you, 
then these stubby 
drills probably make 
more sense than a 
larger tool. All of 
them fit more easily 
into a crowded 
toolbox than do 
their 18-volt (or 
even 14-volt) 
counterparts. And 
as our tests prove, 
they are all relent- 
less drivers. 

The real ques- 
tion in deciding 
how much drilTyou 
need is the size and 
number of the 
holes you bore, and 
how quickly you 
need to bore them. 
We used a spade 
bit for our test 
because it really 
stresses the tool. If 
you drill small holes 
in hardwood and 
softwood (under 
5 /8-inch diameter) 
using a twist drill 
bit, any one of 
these tools will 
serve nicely. For big 
holes, get a more 
powerful drill. 




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Homeowners Clinic 



Q + A 



by Roy Berendsohn 





The Big Picture 

Ql want to hang a large picture in my living room but I can't 
seem to find heavy-duty hooks to attach to the frame. My 
local hardware and art-supply stores don't have anything that 
looks up to the job. My best idea is to drive two large eye 
screws into the frame and hang the picture off a thick piece of 
wire stretched between them. Will this hold? 



A There's a better way. I'm con- 
cerned that if the wire comes 
loose from one of your screw heads, 
the picture is going to come crashing 
down, damaging itself and the floor— 
and maybe you, as well. 

A more reliable method is to use the 
time-honored French cleat, a system 



that uses two beveled lengths of wood. 
The top block is screwed to the hanging 
object. The other half is attached to the 
wall with wood screws. When you place 
the top half of the cleat over the bottom 
half, the picture is locked firmly in posi- 
tion. (See the illustration at right.) 
To make the cleat, rip two pieces of 



110 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



PHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN B E R M A N 



wood at an identical angle on a table 
saw or, lacking that, using a circular saw. 
The length of the pieces matches the 
width of what you are hanging. For large 
pictures, mirrors or cabinets, each cleat 
should be at least 2 inches wide and 3 A 
inches thick, fastened with 2-inch-long 
No. 6 or No. 8 wood screws. Assuming 
V2-inch thick drywall, each screw would 
penetrate % inches into the framing lum- 
ber. That's plenty of holding power for all 
but the heaviest loads. Of course, if 
you're sure there's no wiring or plumbing 
running through the framing and you 
have a truly heavy load to hang, you can 
use an even longer screw. Ideally, the 
bottom cleat should be attached to two 
studs, with a pair of screws driven into 
each. If that's not possible, you should 
still have plenty of holding power by 
attaching to one stud and using a couple 
of hollow wall fasteners at the opposite 
end of the cleat. 

One small drawback of the French 
cleat is that it takes up at least Vi to % 
inch of space behind whatever you're 
hanging. To keep the object from tipping 
against the wall, attach a spacer block 
to the wall or to the back of the frame. 

Snowed In 

Every year I put up a snow fence, and 
every year it doesn't seem to do much 
good. I still get snow drifts on my 
driveway. Should I bother with the 
fence again this year? 
People often have the wrong idea about 
snow fences. They don't prevent a drift — 
they just make the drift form where you 
want it to. A snow fence slows the wind 
and causes the snow to drop to the 
ground. If the fence is correctly posi- 
tioned, the drift forms where it's out of 
the way and where it will do the least 
harm when it melts. The problem comes 
when people place a snow fence close 
to walks and driveways. Thisjust ensures 
that the drifts form in the worst spot- 
right in the middle of the paved surface. 
A rule of thumb for any snow fence: 
Its distance away from the protected 
area should be roughly 35 times its 
height. For a typical 4-foot-high fence, 
that's at least 140 feet away. Obviously, 
if that's larger than the size of your yard 
(and you can't put a fence on your neigh- 
bor's property) you should position it as 
far away as possible. Also consider 



planting a row of trees to take the place 
of a seasonally installed fence. The taller 
the trees grow, the more effective they 
become at blocking wind-driven snow. 

Leaving a gap between the bottom 
of the fence and the ground causes the 
drift to form farther away from the 
fence, dramatically increasing its effec- 
tiveness—the gap prevents the fence 
from being buried by the drift it creates. 
For a 4-foot-tall fence, leave a gap of 6 
inches or so. Make the gap taller if you 
are positioning the fence in an area with 
tall grass and scrubby growth. 

Next, the fence should be at least 
several feet longer than the area it's 
protecting, to keep snow from blowing 
around the fence edges. This also helps 
account for shifts in the wind direction, 
which range from 30 to 45 degrees. 

Finally, to prevent the fence from 
being torn loose, fasten it upwind of its 
posts, so the wind pushes the fence 
against each post, rather 
than pushing it away. To 
prevent the fence from 
being knocked over, 
brace the posts and sup- 
port the end with guide 
wires, especially if the 
end of the fence is near 




a public road where it could be hit by 
snow from a passing plow. 

Discontinued Ducts 

I recently changed my furnace and 
ductwork from a downdraft to an 
overhead heating system. The old 
system used ducts that ran through 
the house's concrete slab floor. We 
have a high groundwater table, and 
sometimes the water penetrates the 
slab and enters the ducts, so I'd like to 
fill the unused ducts if possible. Would 
expanding foam work? 
Groundwater is a lot like politics: It's all 
local. Regardless of the water table, 
you should take steps to reduce water 
problems around your house before 
you tackle the ducts. The ground should 
slope away from the house on all sides, 
and downspouts should discharge as 
far as possible from the foundation 
wall. I'd say that would have to be at 
least 10 feet away. Also, 
contact a foundation 
drainage company to 
get an estimate for 
installing a perimeter 
drain around the slab. 

With that taken care 
of, you're going to have 



TOOL NEWS 



Cool Inventions, Hot Cash 



All of us have ideas 
for new or improved 
tools. Some of us take 
the next step and 
actually build proto- 
types. Then the question 
is, to paraphrase Ralph 
Waldo Emerson, how 
does one get a 
potentially better 
mousetrap to market 
and reap the rewards? 
The DIY Network has 
one answer with its 



upcoming Cool Tools 
Inventor's Challenge TV 
special, which airs 
Thanksgiving weekend. 
Over 300 backyard 
tinkerers entered the 
contest. The ideas ran 
the gamut from the 
almost too simple (a 
small tool-belt hopper 
that delivers nails to 
your hand) to a wild 
contraption that claims 
to make hanging ceiling 



drywall easier. The show 
picked a handful of the 
most promising 
inventions. The finalists 
will present their 
products to a panel of 
three judges that 
includes PM contribut- 
ing editor Chris Grundy, — I 
host of DIY's Cool Tools, 
and myself. The winner 
gets a cool 10 grand, 
exposure and, who 
knows, maybe a coveted 
spot for his invention on 
a home center's shelves. 

-LARRY WEBSTER, 
PM Detroit Editor 



THE COLE-BAR HAMMER 
Intended to be the Leatherman of hammers, this 
contender is split in two down its length and has a ratchet- 
ing joint opposite the head. It unfolds to become a square, 
a crow bar, and even a socket wrench. 




POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 111 




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PM DIY HOME ///HOMEOWNERS CLINIC Q+A 



to hire a professional to deal with the 
ducts, and even then a pro would likely 
have to improvise some kind of a solu- 
tion, whether it's filling the ducts with 
polyurethane foam or pumping in 
grout (a cement-based slurry, like thin 
mortar) or simply capping their ends, 
"mere isn't a good by-the-book solu- 
tion to the problem of failed in-slab 
ducts. To double-check this, I called 
PM contributor Pat Porzio, a mechan- 
ical engineer, plumber and electrician 
who's an HVAC contractor. He's seen 
all kinds of duct systems in his day, 
and cautioned that the ducts may be 
a cement-asbestos blend known as 
Transite. In the old days, some guys 
would simply hack a ragged hole in 
the Transite wherever necessary to fit 
in a floor diffuser. Obviously, if that's 
the case, you want to cover the duct 
openings as soon as possible, even if 
it's with nothing more than a piece of 
carefully positioned plywood. You can 
check whether the duct is Transite by 
snapping off a small piece near a duct 
opening and sending it to a testing lab 
in your area. 

Regreen Is Very Green 

I'm a first-time homeowner, and I've 
seen a variety of environmental 
rating systems applied to houses, 
such as silver, platinum and gold, for 
example. I'm interested in making my 
home as eco-friendly as possible, 
and I'd like it to meet these guide- 
lines. Where do I start the process? 
You're probably referring to green 
construction and certification guide- 
lines under the Leadership in Energy 
and Environmental Design (LEED) 
program. That's a process in which 
builders can have a third party certify 
that a house or commercial building 
meets a range of ambitious environ- 
mental standards. LEED's four levels 
(certified, silver, platinum and gold) 
are applied to new construction or to 
buildings that have been so com- 
pletely rebuilt that they are essentially 
new structures. 

Since you're talking about an exist- 
ing structure, your best bet is to look 



into regreen guidelines. Regreen is 
not a certification process. Instead, 
it's an extremely thorough guide for 
remodeling contractors and home- 
owners interested in improving all 
aspects of a home's environmental 
performance. The guidelines are the 
product of a collaboration between 
the American Society of Interior 
Designers Foundation and the U.S. 
Green Building Council (the nonprofit 
organization that created LEED certi- 
fication and promotes it). 

You can download the guidelines 
at regreenprogram.org. The document 
is one of the best of its type that I've 
seen. In 164 pages, it covers topics 
ranging from reusing kitchen cabinets 
to stopping air infiltration through a 
garage ceiling. Furthermore, it con- 
tains numerous links to other sites 
that can dramatically speed your 
research into green remodeling. 

Steam Ahead? 

Would it be possible to repair heel 
dents in my oak floor by placing a 
damp cloth over them and using a 
clothes iron on the high setting to 
raise the wood grain? This technique 
worked for me on wood paneling, 
but I'm concerned it might damage 
the floor's polyurethane finish. 
It's possible you could raise a small 
dent using the method you describe, 
but it might do more harm than good. 
The combination of heat and moisture 
can wreck a floor's finish. I submitted 
your question to the technical advis- 
ers at the National Wood Flooring 
Association. Their verdict: Sand the 
floor to take out the dents. 

Red oak is a tough material and it 
takes a lot of force to dent it. Yet as 
tough as it is, it can be readily dam- 
aged by high heels and other concen- 
trated loads such as the feet of heavy 
furniture. A variety of studies have 
found that high heels produce a pres- 
sure of several hundred to 2000 psi, 
depending on weight and the surface 
area of the heel. Concentrated in a 
tiny heel, a woman's weight is enough 
to damage the hollow tubes that 



R 



constitute the wood fibers. Picture 
crushing a soda straw and you get the 
idea. So, for starters, you may need to 
refinish the floor. Then you can work 
on banishing high heels from that 
room— let us know how that conver- 
sation turns out. 

Ice Out 

Our house is only a few years 
old, as is its refrigerator. We can't 
understand why the icemaker 
behaves so erratically. We've had a 
technician in to look at it, and he 
can't find a problem. 
I'm willing to bet the refrigerator is 
connected to the kitchen sinks water 
filter. Many refrigerators require at 
least 40 psi of water pressure in order 
to make ice. The problem is that a filter 
can cut that pressure substantially, as 
much as 30 percent if it's a reverse- 
osmosis type or a clogged carbon fil- 
ter. When incoming water pressure to 
the house is only 40 to 50 psi to begin 
with, that will cause problems for the 
icemaker. If your refrigerator has a 
cold-water dispenser, you can test for 
low pressure by timing how long it 
takes to fill a typical drinking-water 
cup. It should take no more than about 
20 seconds or so. 

Replace the water filter if you sus- 
pect that it's clogged, or consider buy- 
ing a booster pump that will supply 
the icemaker with water at the cor- 
rect pressure. (Your refrigerator's 
owner's manual should specify the 
correct pump.) Likewise, if the manu- 
facturer recommends against a 
reverse-osmosis filter, you'll have to 
install a new piece of supply tubing to 
bypass the filter. 

If the problem isn't a water filter, 
check the saddle valve that regulates 
water flow to the refrigerator. The 
valve is a simple device that clamps 
over the copper supply tube leading to 
the icemaker. There are two types. 
One, called a nonpiercing (or drill) type, 
requires that a hole be drilled into the 
supply tube before the valve is 
installed. The other is known as a self- 
tapping saddle valve. It has a pointed 
tip that punctures the tube. "The hole 
created by these self-tapping valves is 
much smaller than the drilled hole," 
says Chris Zeisler, a repair technician 



with repairclinic.com, a Web-based 
appliance-parts retailer. "Thus, the 
self-piercing valve is prone to plugging 
from mineral or other deposits. They 
shouldn't be used in icemaker installa- 
tions." Replacing the valve with a non- 
piercing or drill-type valve may well 
solve the problem. 

Crumbling Concrete 

The surface of my concrete driveway 
is crumbling because of road salt. 
Can I use a sealer on it to prevent 
further crumbling? 

The condition you describe is known 
as scaling, and before you slather on 
the sealer, you should get some pro- 
fessional advice from a local company 
that specializes in concrete restora- 
tion and finishing. 

That probably sounds like drastic 
advice for such a simple-sounding 
question, but there's good reason for 
it. Exterior concrete is supposed to be 
able to withstand normal de-icer 
chemicals. When it doesn't, that could 
mean several things, none of them 
good: Either the concrete wasn't pro- 
duced with an air-entraining cement 
or a similar admixture, it wasn't prop- 
erly finished, or it wasn't properly 
cured. (Air-entrained concrete con- 
tains microscopic air bubbles— as 
many as 300 to 500 billion per cubic 
yard, according to the Portland 
Cement Association. The voids allow 
ice crystals to form, then melt and 
reform without damaging the con- 
crete's surface.) 

If the damage is spreading, and it 
likely will, a concrete restoration com- 
pany will know the best overlay to deal 
with it in your region and climate, as 
well as how to prepare the driveway 
prior to applying an overlay. The resto- 
ration experts may also recommend a 
sealer to reduce water penetration 
through the surface. pm 



Got a home-maintenance or 
repair problem? Ask Roy about it. 
Send your questions to 
pmhomeclinic<3>hearstcom or to 
Homeowners Clinic, Popular Median 
ics, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 
10019-5899. While we cannot 
answer questions individually, 
problems of general interest will 
be discussed in the column. 



© 




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Saturday ^ffr 


Mechanic 1 ^ w 







Old-School 
Ignition Tech 



•■aaawiifli 



LECTOR CAR WITH 
OINTS? HERE'S HOW 

POINTS AND 
MING. BY MIKE ALLEN 



This Chevy V8 
uses an old-school 
Kettering-style 
ignition distributor. 
To set the timing 
after replacing the 
points and 
condenser, you'll 
need, no surprise, 
an old-fashiofied 
stroboscope 
timing light. 





-+ "It's not a heap, dad. It's a clas- 
sic." That's harder to justify when your 
classic muscle car won't start. Noth- 
ing like a high-compression V8 com- 
ined with a battery that hasn't seen 
a charge for a month and a half to 
make for slow cranking. Add in the 
indifferent, low-energy spark and 
incorrect ignition timing caused by 
worn-out points, and you've got 
an engine that won't fire— oh, 
and wet spark plugs too. 
Modern engines use 
computer-controlled fac- 
tory-preset self-adjusting 
ignition systems that never 
change their timing, have 
no moving parts and never 
need maintenance. Yay! A 
generation ago, every teenager, 



PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHAD HUNT 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 115 



• + 



Battery 



PM DIY AUTO III IGNITION 

Igni t 
Swi t c 

every mechanic and a 
lot of vehicle owners 
understood the theory 
and practice of chang- 
ing points and setting 
the timing. Nonethe- 
less, there are still 
plenty of older vehi- 
cles, outdoor power 
equipment, boats and 
tractors that need 
periodic adjustment 
or replacement. 

The distributor on 
these older vehicles 
performs two related 
tasks. The first uses a 
simple on/off switch, 
the ignition points, to provide properly 
timed pulses of 12-volt electricity to 
the ignition coil. In the coil, essentially 
a transformer, it's stepped up to 
10,000 to 20,000 volts. Then, the high- 
voltage electricity from the coil returns 
to the distributor, where the rotor 
inside parcels it out to the correct 
spark plug to ignite the fuel/air mix. 

There's a lobed cam on the distribu- 
tor shaft that pushes on a small rubbing 
block on the movable side of the points. 
As the cam and distributor rotate, the 
points open and close constantly. As 
they close, current from the ignition 
switch flows through the contacts into 
the coil's primary windings and then off 
to ground. This current generates a 
magnetic field in the coil's iron core. 
When the points open a few degrees of 
crankshaft rotation later, the current is 
interrupted, causing the magnetic field 
to collapse. This induces electrical cur- 
rent into the secondary windings of the 
coil, where the current is raised to 
20,000 volts or more. The high voltage 
now travels over to the distributor, 
where the rotor metes the high-voltage 
pulses out to the correct spark plug. 

All that current flowing across the 
points doesn't like to stop suddenly, and 
can initiate a small arc, which eventually 
erodes the tungsten contacts. The con- 
denser cushions that arc, making point 
life much longer. But not infinitely long. 
As the contacts and the plastic rubbing 



Poi nt 
Points Cam 




Plug 
Wi res 



Spark 
Plugs 



R 



Coi L 



Condenser 




Di st ri butor 
Rotor 



Kettering Ignition 



Charles F "Boss" Kettering was one of the founders of Delco, and the inventor of the 
battery-point-style ignition system, first used by Cadillac in 1910. Wear, inaccuracy and 
high maintenance have forced car manufacturers to abandon this system, replacing it with 
computers and individual ignition coils for every cylinder— and no points to wear out. 



block, which contacts the point cam, 
wear, the ignition points' clearance and 
timing constantly change. After thou- 
sands of miles, the timing has shifted 
enough to affect performance, and the 
ritual of changing the points and setting 
the timing becomes necessary. How 
often? Some vehicles need to have the 
timing adjusted as often as every 
10,000 miles to maintain peak perfor- 
mance. High-revving engines will need 
premium points with a high-pressure 
spring to keep the points from bouncing 
at increased revs. Some points assem- 
blies include the condenser, yet for oth- 
ers, it's a separate part. Condensers are 
inexpensive enough that it makes no 
sense not to replace them with every 
set of points. They should last as long as 
a set of points, 20,000 miles at least. 

On Point 

The function of the ignition sys- 
tem is to fire the spark plugs at the cor- 
rect time, just before the piston hits top 
dead center (TDC) on the compression 
stroke, to ignite the fuel/air mixture, 
thence producing high pressure in the 



cylinder to force the piston down and, 
subsequently, the wheels to move the 
car forward. The spark plug normally 
fires anywhere from 10 to 45 degrees 
before the piston reaches TDC, to allow 
the fuel/air mixture's flame front to tra- 
verse the combustion chamber. It takes 
a few milliseconds for the pressure in 
the cylinder to build, and waiting until 
TDC would make the pressure peak too 
late in the piston's downward stroke to 
be most efficient. Under some engine- 
operating conditions, the advance 
might adjust the ignition timing to as 
much as 45 degrees before TDC. Signs 
of incorrect ignition timing include hard 
starting, spark knock, poor power, over- 
heating and decreased fuel economy. 

Advanced Timing 

There are two main types of 

advance mechanism built into the dis- 
tributor. The first is the centrifugal 
advance. A pair of bob-weights spin 
atop the distributor shaft, restrained 
by small springs. As the engine speeds 
up, centrifugal force pulls the weights 
outward, which in turn makes the top 



116 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




4- MECHANICAL ADVANCE 

These spring-loaded 
counterweights move 
farther out as the rpm 
increase, advancing the 
ignition timing. How much 
advance and how early is 
determined by the springs. 

* VACUUM ADVANCE 

Vacuum from the 
carburetor pulls on a 
rubber diaphragm to 
rotate the breaker 
plate for extra ignition 
advance at part-throttle. 
Be sure both these 
advance mechanisms 
are working whenever 
you replace points. 



Setting Dwell 



Changing the clearance in the points affects the 

proportion of time the points are closed ("dwell") 

and the charging of the coil. A dwell meter is 

needed to properly adjust the dwell angle, which is 

done with the engine spinning on the starter 

motor or, on some engines, actually idling. 




of the split distributor shaft advance. 
Missing springs or a gummed-up link- 
age can give too much advance too 
soon, or none at all. 

Similarly, a vacuum advance uses a 
rubber diaphragm to advance or retard 
the timing. Vacuum from the carburetor 
pulls on one side of the diaphragm, pull- 
ing the points around the distributor 
and making the plugs fire earlier. A leaky 
vacuum line, a disintegrating rubber dia- 
phragm or a sticky breaker plate can 
make the advance mechanism balky. 

Inoperative advance mechanisms 
can deliver too much or too little igni- 
tion advance. Too much advance can 
make the engine ping. Too little causes 
power loss and overheating. 

Installing the new points and con- 
denser is simple, and usually requires 
no more than a screwdriver. The propor- 
tion of time the distributors cam keeps 
the points closed and open is referred 
to as dwell angle. Adjust the dwell angle 
initially by using a feeler gauge. Most 
V8 American iron should be adjusted 
to 0.018 to 0.020 inches, while four- 
cylinder engines, like early VWs, start 



around 0.014 inches. Close is good 
enough, because the only really accu- 
rate way to set dwell is with a— wait for 
it— dwell meter. The dwell angle should 
be 30 to 35 degrees for V8s and 44 to 
50 degrees for four-cylinder engines. 
Check the shop manual for your car. 
Attach the dwell meter to the coils low- 
voltage leads and spin the engine with 
the starter motor to check and trim the 
dwell. Some cars have a small window 
in the distributor to let you set dwell 
with the car running, a real timesaver 
because you don't have to crank the 
engine with the starter, adjust the 
points and check the dwell again. 

Cleanup in Bay 4 

Before you button up the distribu- 
tor, clean the point contacts of any oil 
left behind by your feeler gauges. Con- 
tamination will carbonize and become a 
resistance where there should be only 
metal-to-metal contact. I usually just 
use the corner of a business card to 
scrub any contamination off. Add a dab 
of point-cam lube to the rubbing block. 

Adjusting dwell also changes the 



base ignition timing, so whenever the 
dwell is adjusted or the points replaced, 
the timing will need to be adjusted. 
Some engines call for vacuum lines to 
be pinched off or disconnected, so 
you'll need to find the correct timing 
procedure for your engine in the shop 
manual. I'll wait... 

Got the timing specs? Find the tim- 
ing marks on the harmonic balancer or 
on the flywheel. Use some contrasting 
paint or a felt pen to brighten the timing 
mark. Hook the timing light to the No. 1 
plug wire. Start the engine, and shine 
the timing light at the timing marks. 
Mind the whirling fan and the belts, 
reminds my old-timer mechanic pal 
Lefty. The strobing light will 'stop" the 
spinning pulley when the No. 1 plug fires. 
Loosen the clamp holding the distributor 
down and slightly rotate the body of 
the distributor to line up the timing 
marks. Revving the engine slightly should 
make the mechanical advance actuate— 
you'll see the timing marks advance 
and retreat as the engine surges. Tighten 
the distributor clamp, reconnect any 
vacuum lines and drive. pm 



POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 117 




R 



Car Clinic 

by Mike Allen 



Q+A 




Weight 
Watchers 



'LIGHTWEIGHT" 

AFTERMARKET 

I BRAKE ROTOR 






OEM-STYLE 

AFTERM ARKET 

ROTOR 



Ql needed new disc brakes for my car, but the 
repair shop wanted so much money for the 
parts alone, I went to the auto parts store up the 
street and bought them myself. But when I showed 
up at the shop to have them do the installation, the 
manager took one look and refused to install the 
brakes. He said they were poor "offshore knockoffs," 
and likely to kill me and my family. I was a little 
annoyed— until we both calmed down and he showed 
me the difference in the parts. The ones I bought were 
much lighter, because the metal was thinner at 
almost every spot. So I took them back. The parts- 
store clerk said these were special "lightweight" 
brakes, and would actually help me save gas. TTiey 
wouldn't refund my money, but would let me swap 
them for a different set identical to the ones the 
brake shop wanted to install, right down to the brand 
on the box— and they wound up costing me more 
than the brake shop would have charged me in the 
first place. Is it legal to sell these lightweight brakes? 



Lighter 
isn't better. 

Reducing the 
mass of cast 
iron in brake 

discs is one way 
to trim costs, 

but it comes at 
a reduction in 
brake perfor- 
mance. 



A Legal, yes. As to their being light- 
weight, they certainly are. A good 
idea? Probably not. There are increas- 
ing numbers of these offshore, low- 
quality brake discs showing up on 
shelves lately. They use less cast iron 
and have thinner flanges and fewer, 
thinner cooling vanes then the OEM 
equivalents. Brakes transform the 
kinetic energy in your vehicle to heat. It 
takes mass, in the form of that cast 
iron, to capture the heat, and then sur- 
face area to dissipate the heat to the 
air. Less mass equals poorer brake per- 
formance in high-speed stops. Fewer 
vanes equals poorer performance in 
sequential stops or on long downhill 
grades. In both cases, that's bad, dude. 
The failure mode here is when the fric- 
tion material gets hot enough to boil, 



118 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



PHOTOGRAPH BY CHAD HUNT 




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PM DIY AUTO III CAR CLINIC Q+A 



forcing the pad surface to float above 
the iron discs on a grounds-effect 
cushion of vaporized binder, leaving 
you with a spongy pedal and no brak- 
ing power. Extreme cases of over- 
heating can boil the brake fluid, leav- 
ing you with no brakes until they cool. 
There are a half-dozen manufactur- 
ers of brake discs in this country, and 
more overseas, that make discs virtu- 
ally indistinguishable in quality from 
the ones installed on your car the day 
it was made. Stick to brand names, 
and you should be fine. Saving money 
on brakes somehow doesn't sound 
like a good idea, especially when the 
difference is only 20 or 30 bucks. As 
for saving gas because the discs are 
lighter? I don't think so. 

Slow Hand 

Is there a way to repair a seatbelt 
retractor? I have a relatively new 



SUV with seatbelts that are slow 
to retract. The belts require a little 
help so that they don't get caught in 
the door when we get out. Can they 
be lubricated? 

I've fixed a bunch of seatbelt retrac- 
tors. Usually, they are gummed up by 
lint, dog hair, and in one case what 
seemed to be the majority of a bottle 
of sticky soda. 

Warning: Do not attempt this if 
your vehicle uses seatbelt pretension- 
ers, which are more complicated, and 
are, in some cases, driven by the same 
kind of pyrotechnics as an airbag. 

Remove the seatbelt retractor 
from its mounting, which will proba- 
bly mean removing some interior 
trim. Don't remove the belt's web- 
bing, or you stand the chance of let- 
ting the whole thing unwind like a 
cheap window blind. Clean as much 
gummy lubricant and dirt out of the 




Sync Is Calling 



What does that 
light on my dash 

mean? You know, 
that Check Engine 
light that only the 
mechanic can decipher, 
requiring a trip to the 
shop and a $75 fee 
just to look? Either 
that, or buying a scan 
tool— and then try to 
figure out what "Code 
P0300" means in Earth 
language. Ford's 2010 
Sync system, as well as 
syncing your iPod and 
your phone to the car, 
can short-circuit (sorry) 
all of that. All you need 
to do is activate a 



Your cor 
con send 
e-moil. 
Kewl. 




t 



feature called Vehicle 
Health Report, then 
Sync your Bluetooth 
phone and perform a 
Vehicle Health Report. If 
the Check Engine light 
comes on, Sync will send 
you a quick e-mail 
detailing the problem in 
lay terms, letting you 
knowthataP0300is 



just a generic code for a 
misfire, and that your 
car won't explode before 
you get home. Sync will 
even volunteer to make 
an appointment with the 
local Ford dealer for a 
repair. Sounds like just 
what I need to keep 
track of my wife's car 
when I'm out of town. 



R 



mechanism as you can with a 
toothbrush or some innocuous 
cleaner such as Simple Green. 
Solvents or harsh cleaners like 
ammonia or detergents may 
degrade the nylon webbing, 
which would be bad. Lubricate 
sparingly with silicone spray. If 
the mechanism permits, you 
may be able to lube with some 
silicone grease or lithium 
grease, but, again, avoid get- 
ting any on the webbing. If you 
feel really confident about tin- 
kering with such a vital safety 
system, disassemble the whole 
shootin' match and wind a cou- 
ple of extra turns into the clock 
spring that operates the retrac- 
tor. But if you've ever redone 
the spring mechanism in a 
lawnmower recoil starter, you'll 
avoid this at all costs. 

Cheap Insurance 

I have a 1998 New Beetle TDI 
(diesel) that had its Check 
Engine light come on. A VW 
dealer found a rust-frozen 
wastegate rod. He lubed it 
and moved it back and forth. 
However, he said the problem 
would probably come back. 
Since the part is not available 
separately from VW, I would 
have to buy the entire 
turbocharger. Installed, that 
will run a whopping $2200. Is 
there a way of getting only 
the offending part and 
replacing just that? Will 
running the engine this way 
damage anything? 
The wastegate bleeds off 
excess exhaust from the turbo 
to keep the intake-manifold 
pressure from getting too 
high. Just because the part 
isn't available directly from 
VW doesn't mean it's unavail- 
able. Hunt around for the part 
instead of just believing what 
the dealership tells you. And, 
frankly, freeing up and oiling a 
moving part once every 10 
years sounds like the cheapest 
solution. Maybe, if you lubed 
this part annually with a 



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PM DIY AUTO III CAR CLINIC Q+A 



penny's worth of Nevr-Seez, it wouldn't 
freeze up again. 

Will not fixing this damage your 
engine? Depends. If it sticks open, 
dumping the wastegate all the time, 
you'll have little power. If it sticks closed, 
you could overboost the engine and 
melt or break a piston. 

Lights Off 

My Ford Explorer's battery was drawn 
completely dead by the interior lights 
when someone left the door ajar for a 
full week. Can I jump-start my Explorer 
with cables and drive 100 miles 
without damaging the alternator? 
I have been warned that the alternator 
will be damaged. 

I know, I know; we've all jump-started 
cars many times and haven't damaged 
anything yet, right? On the other hand, 
the large amount of current needed to 
operate late-model cars with electric 
fuel pumps, fuel injection and gobs of 
electricity-consuming accessories is 
daunting. That's why most cars have 
100-amp or larger alternators. Running 
all that stuff while trying to resuscitate 
a really dead battery can make an alter- 
nator overheat. Black, crispy wiring = 
bad. Alternator manufacturer Bosch 
warns that alternators can indeed be 
damaged this way. A decent charger is 
less than a new alternator. 

To reduce the current your poor 
alternator is going to have to produce 
to charge that battery, Bosch— 
and I— recommend charging the battery 
3 to 4 hours with a proper battery char- 
ger before starting the car. If that's not 
feasible, do this: Start by hooking up the 
jumper cables to the two batteries and 
letting them chat for a half-hour or so. 
Don't run the engine on the donor car. 
This will put at least some charge into 
the dead battery. Then start the donor 
car and let it run at fast idle for 10 to 15 
minutes to add some more charge. 
Now start the dead car, but turn off as 
many accessories as you can. Specifi- 
cally, don't use the air conditioning, 
headlights, rear-window defrosters or 
any other high-power devices until the 
car has been driven for a couple of 



hours. Drive, if possible, on the freeway, 
or at least avoid stop-and-go traffic. 
You'll be better off with the engine spin- 
ning and the alternator's cooling fan 
spinning along rapidly to keep the alter- 
nator from frying itself. Start saving 
money in the cookie jar for a new bat- 
tery. Deep-discharging a flooded-cell 
lead-acid car battery like yours, even 
once, will permanently damage it. 

Torque to Me 

I am changing the front struts on my 

'05 Ford Explorer. The manual says I 

need to torque the bolt that mates the 

strut to the lower control arm to 258 

ft-lb. I looked everywhere for a big 

enough torque wrench. It looks like all 

the torque wrenches peak at 250 ft-lb! 

I also researched impact wrenches, 

and they have the torque required, but 

I wonder if they're accurate. 

An impact wrench is not an acceptable 

way to torque anything, even a lug nut. 

There are larger torque wrenches, but 

you'd need to go to an 

auto parts store or an 

industrial supply house. 

For serious torquing, they 

make gear-driven torque 

multipliers that can 

increase the torque value 

on the wrench by as 

much as eightfold. Of 

course, that's overkill for 

your job. I would just set 

the torque wrench to 

250 ft-lb, and give it one 

tiny twist more after the 

click. For that matter, the 

difference between 250 

and 258 ft-lb is about 

3 percent, and I doubt 

the wrench calibration is 

closer than that. 

Not fastidious enough 
for you? Let's try this. Put 
an open-end crowfoot on 
the end of the torque 
wrench instead of a 
socket, which will extend 
the wrench about three- 
quarters of an inch. My 
half-inch torque wrench is 



i 



about 14 inches long from the center of 
the drive to the pivot on the handle. 
Adding the crowfoot will multiply the 
torque by 14.75/14, or a little more 
than 105 percent. Measure your crow- 
foot and wrench to find the specific 
multiplier for your application. If you 
were to make or buy an extension that 
moved the torque wrench back exactly 
14 inches, then the torque on the bolt 
would be exactly double what the 
wrench is set to. Sometimes, I just use 
a combination wrench as a torque mul- 
tiplier. Do the math to figure what you 
need to dial up on the wrench to 
achieve the correct fastener torque. 

Diesel Woes 

I own a 2009 Jetta TDI like your 
long-term test car (in the August '09 
issue). I too had the experience of 
purchasing contaminated fuel. I fueled 
up my car with diesel and as I was 
leaving it sounded like I was dragging 
chains. By the time I went to exit the 
service station the car was nonfunc- 
tional. I had it towed to the nearest 
VW dealer and was told that I had 
contaminated fuel. But, unlike your 
test car, I had to pay $450 to have the 
fuel system flushed out. 
Gasoline burns far more rapidly than 
diesel, and the chain-like noise you 
heard was detonation, similar to the 
ping you get in a gas engine running on 
low-octane fuel. Continued operation 
under these conditions could damage 
your engine, so be glad it shut down 
right away. 

Obviously, somewhere along the 
distribution chain, gas got mixed with 
diesel fuel. That gas station owes you 
$450 and the cost of the tow. You, and 
a lot of other people who pumped fuel 
from that tank. Call whatever state or 
county agency regulates gas stations 
in your area and complain. Then call 
your attorney. pm 



Got a car problem? 
Ask Mike about it. Send your ques- 
tions to pmautoclinict&hearstcom or 
to Car Clinic, Popular Mechanics, 300 
W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019- 
5899. While we cannot answer ques- 
tions individually, problems of general 
interest will be discussed in 
the column. ^^ 

© 



R 



122 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



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PHOTOGRAPH BY CHR 



Digital 
Sketchbook 



THE TECHNOLOGY TO TRANSLATE 
YOUR DOODLES TO PIXELS IS 
SURPRISINGLY AFFORDABLE AND 
ACCESSIBLE. BY ANTHONY VERDUCCI 

• Drawing, that medium of pencils, 
pens and paper, would seem to be 
the last great analog art. Traditional 
sketching is a tactile experience that 
doesn't translate well to a mouse. 
But take the mouse out of the equa- 
tion and replace it with a digital pen, 
and drawing on a computer becomes 
a surprisingly intuitive experience. 

Pen-based user interfaces are 
almost as old as computing itself, but 
professional graphic artists all swear 
by one technology— the Wacom tablet 
and pen. Wacom makes a variety of 
pen and tablet interfaces, from $2000 
21-inch rotating tablets with integrated 
screens to the small, consumer-friendly 
Bamboo Craft, which sells for $130. 

I've used Wacom tablets both pro- 
fessionally for photo retouching and for 
my hobby, creating cartoon creatures, 
for years, but the fundamentals of the 



DECEMBER 2009 125 



PM DIY TECH ///DIGITAL DRAWING 




I 



pen interface take only minutes to learn. 
A Wacom tablet interacts with an elec- 
tromagnetic resonance pen that the pad 
can detect from up to a half-inch away. 
You can control the onscreen cursor by 
hovering above the pad's surface. To 
draw or select an option, just trace or 
tap on the pad. The tablet senses both 
pressure and directionality, so it can digi- 
tally mimic the character of your stroke— 
from the gentle scratches of a pencil to 
the thick, heavy lines of a paintbrush 
dragged across a canvas. Newer Wacom 
tablets, such as the Bamboo Craft, are 
two-finger touch-sensitive, meaning you 
can use the device as a digital drawing 
pad as well as a trackpad replacement 
for a mouse. 

The second part of the artistic equa- 
tion is software. No two artists have 
the same style or technique, and just as 
analog artists work in acrylics, water- 
colors, oils or inks, digital artists have a 
broad tool set of art programs available 
to them. Pro art software is enormously 
capable, but can get expensive and eye- 
glazingly complex. Adobe Photoshop 
($700), for instance, has artistic tools 
that go way beyond its core photo- 
manipulation functionality. Corel 
Painter ($500) digitally mimics the pro- 
cess of using traditional media such as 
oil and pastels. And Autodesk Maya 
($3495) is sophisticated 3D modeling 
software. But any of these programs 
can take years to master. 

For newbies, many of the same com- 
panies that make pro software also 
have lower-priced programs such as 
Adobes Photoshop Elements ($100), 
Corel's Painter Essentials ($100) and 
Sketch Pad ($120), and Autodesk 
SketchBook Pro ($100). These are 
easier to learn and far friendlier to the 
wallet. (Wacom tablets generally come 
with two free art software downloads, 
so some of these programs can be had 
for no cost.) The software that fits your 
style is best discovered through experi- 
mentation. Download trial versions of 
software before you buy. 

Most of these programs have a fairly 
similar logic and set of tools. The con- 
cept of layering, for example, is perva- 



sive. Drawing and editing images in lay- 
ers is like having infinite levels of tracing 
paper to compose your image with. You 
can draw a rough sketch on the bottom 
layer, then progressively refine it and 
add color in successive layers (see "The 
Layered Look"). As you work, you can 
turn individual layers on and off, allow- 
ing you to experiment without losing 
your previous work. Don't like your char- 
acter's hands? Turn that layer off and 
try drawing a set of lobster claws. 

Palettes of tools such as paint- 
brushes, pencils, chalks and airbrushes 
are common to most software; colors 
can be mixed on screen and brush sizes 
and shapes dialed in to your specifica- 
tion. Some software even allows you to 
specify the character of the paper or 
canvas you are working on. The more 
you explore each program, the more 
functionality you'll discover. And you can 
use different programs in tandem. A 
drawing started in Painter Essentials 
can be opened in Photoshop Express, 
where you can tinker with new effects. 

Once you start experimenting, you'll 
find plenty of options that are easy in 
the digital world but would have been 
painstaking or even impossible in the 
physical world. For instance, you can 
take a digital photo, import it as a 
source layer in Painter, trace over it and 
end up with a photo-accurate illustra- 
tion. (If you don't want to import the 
photo digitally, lay a printout over your 
tablet and trace directly over it.) 

Any mistakes are easily erased, and 
as you work, you are constantly creat- 
ing scenery, characters and other ele- 
ments that you can cut and paste into 
new work. For my creatures, I have a 
library of perfectly executed alien heads, 
serpent eyes, claws, hooves and various 
antennae that I go back to all the time. 

When you get good enough, you 
can print your work directly to canvas 
using online services such as Canvas 
On Demand or Canvas People, and 
then put them up for sale at etsy.com. 
Or you can make T-shirts and mugs 
and sell them at cofepress.com. Just 
because you're an artist doesn't mean 
you have to starve. pm 



The Layered Look 



Digital artwork is created through a 
layering process. Each layer refines the one 
below it, like tracing paper. This structured 
drawing process allows much more 
flexibility and room for experimentation. 




The base layer is for 
brainstorming with a 
light-colored pencil tool. 
Use the space to rough 
out multiple ideas. 




Pick out your best ideas and 
redraw them into the next 
layer. Refine the details of 
your subject and decide on 
your point of view. 




Add another layer under- 
neath the sketch layer for 
color. Experiment with 
various brushes and 
tools to add texture. 




On the uppermost layer, 
trace over your sketch with 
the pen tool to create a 
solid outline. Add in fine 
details like wrinkles, 
shadows and highlights. 



126 DECEMBER 2009 | P0PULARMECHANICS.COM 



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Digital Clinic 

by Seth Porges 



The Cellphone 
Freeze Test 

Ql live in a cold climate. 
Can my cellphone get 
damaged if I leave it in a car 
or bag on a frigid day? 

A People tend to assume that 
extreme cold and mobile devices 
just don't mix. After all, cold tempera- 
tures can freeze liquid-crystal displays 
and slow the chemical reaction that 
gives lithium-ion batteries their charge. 

But bringing phones into the cold is 
unavoidable— if you've ever gone skiing, 
or you simply live in Chicago, you've 
certainly spent hours in a freezing envi- 
ronment with nothing more than a layer 
of denim or a jacket pocket to shield your 
phone from the chill. 

Exactly how cold can a phone get 
before it stops working? We decided to 
find out. For help, we called up our 
friends at Environ Laboratories, an envi- 
ronmental testing facility in Minneapolis 
used by the defense, aerospace and 
technology industries to simulate 
extreme conditions. We gave Environ a 
sample of six phones from various 
manufacturers. These models were the 
type of commodity phones that service 
providers often give away for free with 
new contracts— none was billed as "rug- 
gedized" or designed to withstand 
extreme temperatures. Environ's job 
was to freeze the gadgets in a 
temperature-controlled chamber (low- 
est possible setting: minus 100 F) until 
all six phones stopped working— no 
matter how much cold that required. 
In other words, we decided to push 
these phones way beyond the limits of 
their design parameters and warranties. 

Beginning at 40 F (the equivalent 
of a brisk autumn evening in New Eng- 
land), we let each phone run for 30 




minutes before bringing the tempera- 
ture down by 10 degrees. We repeated 
this incremental temperature drop 
every half-hour until the phones stopped 
working. Once a phone died, we gave it 
one last dash of mercy by bringing it 
back to room temperature to see if 
warmth could revive it. 

Other than minor hiccups (slight 
screen dimming, slow key response), 



none of the phones had any real prob- 
lems down to minus 10 F> when the 
low-battery indicator popped up on one 
Samsung, despite the fact that it had 
recently been charged. At minus 20, the 
same phone shut off (plugging it in and 
turning it on quickly revived it), and the 
displays of some of the other phones 
were difficult to read. 

Thirty below is where the real 



128 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS ECKERT 




fun began, with five of the six phones 
experiencing serious battery or LCD 
problems— the display on a Nokia 
became an unreadable block of blue, 
while bizarre bars polluted another 
phone's screen. 

Another 10 degrees, down to minus 
40, and all but one of the phones was 
rendered inoperable. The last phone 
standing, an old Motorola Krzr belong- 
ing to a PM staffer, actually remained 
functional until about minus 55 F> 
when its battery died. 

Remarkably, none of the damage 
appeared to be permanent— all it took 
was a return to room temperature to 
bring all of the phones back to life. 

Still, we're electronic sadists, and 
we weren't going to let our access to 
Environs environmental testing facility — 
and its vats of liquid nitrogen— go to 
waste. Sure, the coldest temperature 
ever recorded on earth was just minus 
128.6 F (and the continental U.S. has 
never dropped below minus 70) but we 
couldn't resist finding out how our tough- 
est competitor could handle a dunk in a 
minus 314.7 F bucket of liquid nitrogen. 

Amazingly, the Motorola phone sur- 
vived multiple dips in the coolant. The 
sub-sub-sub-zero swims caused its 
battery to shut down, but once the 
phone was warmed up, it came back to 
life with no visible damage. We even 
dropped the frozen phone to the floor 
from hip height. And although we 
expected it to shatter, the fall barely 
caused any damage. In fact, it wasn't 
until we dunked the Krzr in the liquid 
nitrogen four times, and then forcibly 
threw it to the ground, that it finally 



called it quits. Even then, 
the screen still turned 
on when the phone was 
plugged in (although it 
was unreadable), and, 
amazingly, the audio still 
worked. Some keys even 
appeared to produce a 
response. 

The results were reas- 
suring, if not astonishing. 
The bottom line: Alaska 
residents might endure 
some screen problems 
or short-lived batteries 
on cold days, but nothing 
a warm room couldn't 
cure. And if our phone can handle 
repeated swims in one of the coldest liq- 
uids on earth, yours can surely survive a 
day on the slopes without worry. 



Leopard Spots 



I want to upgrade my Mac to the new 
Snow Leopard operating system. Will 
all of my existing applications be 
compatible with the new OS? 

The new Mac OS X version 10.6, better 
known as Snow Leopard, is a sort of 
guerrilla update. It's inexpensive (users 
can upgrade to it for as little as $29), and 
does virtually nothing to change the look 
and feel of your computer. In fact, most 
of its changes are under the hood— it 
uses several gigabytes less hard-drive 
space than its predecessor, and it should 
help your whole system run a bit faster. 

While most existing programs will 
work just fine on Snow Leopard, a hand- 
ful have experienced problems (at least in 
their current iterations). When you install 
Snow Leopard, your computer will auto- 
matically move these applications to a 
new folder called Incompatible Software. 



Thankfully, Apple has published a list 
of known problem programs on its web- 
site (check under "Support"). So while 
you probably have nothing to worry 
about compatibility-wise, it's a good idea 
to check this list before upgrading, just 
to make sure that nothing you rely on will 
be put out of commission. 

Automatic Auto-Tune 

I'm into making my own music and 
have tried using Auto-Tune software to 
modulate my voice to sound like T-Pain 
or Kanye West. Trouble is, the 
software seems fairly complex. Is 
there an easier way of doing it? 
Auto-Tune software has long been used 
by recording artists to nail wayward 
vocal tracks to a precise pitch. But 
cranked to the max, the software has 
the intriguing (and potentially annoying) 
ability to make people sound like musical 
robots. (You might recognize it from 
Cher's "Believe," which was one of the 
first hits to make large use of the effect, 
and nearly all of Kanye West's 808s & 
Heartbreak album was recorded with it.) 
Still, it can be fun to tinker with Auto- 
Tune, especially if you're tone-deaf, like 
me. The easiest way to play with the 
effect: a new iPhone app, appropriately 
called I Am T-Pain. Load up the $3 app, 
sing into your phone's mic, and the pro- 
gram does the rest. pm 



Got a technology problem? 

Ask Seth about it. 
Send your questions to 
pmdigitalclinic(3)hearsLcom or to 
Digital Clinic, Popular Mechanics, 
300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 
10019-5899. While we cannot 
answer questions individually, 
problems of general interest will 
be discussed in the column. 



Popular Mechanics (ISSN 0032-4558) 
is published 12 times a year by Hearst 
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York, NY 10019, U.SA Frank A. Bennack, President 
and Chief Executive Officer; Catherine A. Bostron, 
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Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer. Hearst 
Magazines Division: Cathleen P. Black, President and 
Group Head; John P. Loughlin, Executive Vice 
President and General Manager; John A. Rohan, Jr., 
Vice President and Group Controller. 
© 2009 by Hearst Communications, Inc. All rights 
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POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



DECEMBER 2009 129 



The New Wildcatters 

(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 97) 

Though only partially built out, the 
specs for Mueller, a partnership 
between the Catellus Development 
Group and the city of Austin, are 
already impressive. Mueller includes 
the world's greenest hospital, more 
than 75 acres of parkland and 13 miles 
of bike trails and sidewalks connecting 
550 homes — a quarter of which are 
affordable housing and all of which 
have been built to Austin Energy's 
green building standards. The master 
plan includes native prairie to seques- 
ter carbon, a reclaimed water system 
for irrigation, a town center, a chil- 
dren's museum and housing and 
employment for 10,000 people. 

But McCracken sees an even more 
ambitious vision playing out here — 
that of a solar-powered "energy Inter- 
net." He is the driving force behind the 
Pecan Street Project, a nonprofit dedi- 
cated to making Austin a laboratory for 
smart-grid technology. "In the home of 
the future, you will be able to look at an 
app on your phone that tells you what 
your energy usage is, what it's costing 
you and how it impacts your preset 
electric budget," McCracken says. 
"You'll be able to see what individual 
appliances, whether the refrigerator or 
air conditioner, are costing you in real 
time. And you'll be able to control 
that." Utilities will be able to take 
advantage of the same software to mea- 
sure and manage energy flow. 

As a demonstration site for the 
Pecan Street Project (pending federal 
stimulus funding), Mueller would link 
1000 residential meters, 75 commer- 
cial meters and plug-in-vehicle- 
charging stations on a microgrid, test- 
ing technologies such as energy storage 
as well as business models like rooftop 
solar leasing. "It's technically challeng- 
ing, but so is the Internet, where you 
have millions of computers feeding 
into servers and distributing it out," 
McCracken says. "The big advantage 
we have is the extent to which this is 
now a technology strategy. We're a very 
entrepreneurial state. And we have 
some regulatory flexibilities and a busi- 
ness culture that's been really condu- 
cive to the high-tech sector." 



Besides partners like the University 
of Texas and the Environmental 
Defense Fund (EDF), the Pecan Street 
Project has attracted private compa- 
nies, including Microsoft, Intel and 
IBM, that will be able to test their own 
technologies in a real-world setting — 
without the approval of the Federal 
Energy Regulatory Commission. "They 
see smart-grid deployment as some- 
thing that is going to go into their mar- 
kets, so they really want to find out how 
this all works," John Baker, chief strat- 
egy officer for Austin Energy, says. 

Austin Energy is municipally owned 
and vertically integrated — its board is 
the city council and its customers are 
its shareholders — so the utility has 



our way." When a major wind turbine 
manufacturer considered sites in Texas 
for a factory, Wortham says, the state 
let towns sell themselves. "It's like The 
Apprentice," he says. "It slides a little 
package across the way." Pennsylva- 
nia's governor promoted the entire 
commonwealth as a site and got that 
factory — which led to others. 

Last December, before the 2009 state 
legislative session began, I had break- 
fast with McCracken and representative 
Strama. McCracken was characteristi- 
cally cerebral but optimistic. Gesturing 
over a plate of huevos rancheros, he 
painted a new picture of South Lamar 
Street, which is the heart of South Aus- 
tin — "the funky soul of our city." Instead 



• 



"That's where Texas 
thinks we're big dogs. 
Texans do things 
differently. We're inde- 
pendent and some- 
times that gets 
in our way." 



GREG WORTHAM, 
MAYOR OF SWEETWATER 



been able to take the long view on alter- 
native energy: It has led the Pecan Street 
Project, established the country's first 
green building standards, distributed 
smart meters and pushed auto compa- 
nies to develop plug-in vehicles. State 
leadership has not been nearly as pro- 
gressive. The legislature meets for only 
140 days every other year. This year, 
despite bipartisan support, only one of 
50 bills with solar incentives passed 
before the session ended; the legisla- 
ture meets again in January 2011. 

"I think we're a little schizophrenic," 
James Marston, the director of EDF's 
Texas office, says. "We know wind 
worked and we got some jobs, but we're 
not as aggressive as Colorado or New 
Mexico or even Michigan [on renewable 
energy], and we're missing out." 

On that point, Sweetwater's 
Wortham agrees. "That's where Texas 
thinks we're big dogs," he says. "Tex- 
ans do things differently. We're inde- 
pendent and sometimes that gets in 



of lube shops, used-car dealers and gas 
stations — businesses serving the exist- 
ing energy economy — he described the 
future of South Lamar under a distrib- 
uted electrical system, one that will 
open up the economy to green-collar 
jobs and lots of small, local entrants. 

"We can totally screw this up," 
Strama said, kicking back in his chair 
from the heavy wooden table. "The 
energy industry is going to evolve. It 
can either go the way of the evolution 
from radio to television, where the 
existing broadcasters saw change 
coming, invested in it, and led the 
change. Or," he said, "it can evolve the 
way we went from TV to the Internet, 
where those guys didn't see change 
coming, and a couple of kids in a 
garage in California built a company 
bigger than all of them." 

With clean energy poised to become 
the biggest economic opportunity 
since the oil boom, that is what's at 
stake for Texas . pm 



130 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 




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DECEMBER 2Q 09 | WWW.PQPULARMFCHANCSjCOV- 



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135 




THIS 
IS 
MY 
JOB 



Daryl Smith didn't set out to custom-build radiation detectors. 

After choosing glass blowing over graduate school, he spent years 
working for pharmaceutical and chemical companies; becoming a glass blower at Yale Univer- 
sity allowed him to use his old-fashioned craft to create state-of-the-art scientific tools. Now 
he gets all sorts of requests: alterations to standard equipment, designs for prototypes, even 
glass rods for a detector that went into CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Europe. The machine 
reveals radiation emitted by charged particles traveling faster than the speed of light— the 
equivalent of traveling backward in time, according to Einstein's theory of relativity. "I tell 
people I'm making a time machine," Smith says. — Andrew moseman 



2. Didymium Goggles 

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3. Lathe This lathe allows 
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4. Gas At 4100 F, a natural 
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jump to the hole. 



136 DECEMBER 2009 | POPULARMECHANICS.COM 



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